Thursday, October 20, 2005

What I bought - 19 October 2005

Man, I'm always pissing somebody off when I post - who knew a simple review of a comic book store would turn into that? I made a couple of comments responding to "Anonymous," and I'd like to say - I appreciate his thoughts, and hope he comes back around. It's always fun to have conflicting opinions here - conflict is good for the soul!!!!

So let's take a look at this week's purchases, shall we? Nothing controversial here, right? Right?

The phrase of this week will be "batshit insane." There was weird stuff in unusual places this week, and as I was reading, I just kept thinking ... "batshit insane." Not everything I bought was like that, but I will definitely point it out when it merits it.

303 #6 by Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows
$3.99, Avatar

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And so it ends, this series that flew under the radar and spent months delayed and weirdly split into two "parts" of three chapters each and never lived up to its potential. That's not to say it wasn't a good series. I enjoyed it, and would recommend the trade to anyone who bothered to ask me about it, but it was strangely disjointed, and I'll have to re-read all six issues at once to see if it's me forgetting crucial plot points from earlier issues, which is possible because it took so long for the damned things to come out. Even if it is me, the comic is partially to blame because of its wacky schedule.

Anyway, the thing that made this a good (but not great) series is Ennis's meditation on the violence inherent in being a soldier and how one reconciles with that, as well as the tradition of soldiery and the honor that goes with it. Ennis is big on "being a soldier," and while I don't read his Punisher (he's one character that even if one of my favorite writers tackles him - and Ennis is - I won't read it), I imagine it's chock full of this sort of thing. This issue is heavy with it, as it is the wrap-up, and I wish it had tied in better with the Russian sergeant's visions that he had earlier in the series. Ennis gets into politics a little and Bush's justifications for the war (and doesn't necessarily think it's a bad thing, which is nice) and again shows what a bad-ass the sergeant is, but it feels like it's not part of the larger series. The end is a nice image, though - depressing, but nice.

Brian gets on Avatar's case for all the Brian Pulido crap they put out, and it's perfectly justified, but they also put out a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with Goth chicks in leather bikinis, and it's unfortunate that gets all the press. Check this series out when it comes out in trade.

Astro City: The Dark Age Book One #4 by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

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And so the first part of the huge, sprawling "Dark Age" saga comes to an end, rather anti-climactically, if you ask me. What the hell is up with endings today? Charles and Royal's confrontation with the Blue Knight ought to be front and center, and it's a nice scene, but it's overwhelmed by the appearance of Tyranos Rex's mother, who wants him back and threatens to destroy the city. The Silver Agent shows up to broker peace talks, but isn't he on Death Row? Wha-huh?

Obviously, this isn't "the end," so Busiek is under no constraint to finish with a bang. He forgoes some of the key points of the story so far, though, for a rather incongruous appearance by a super-villainness and cameos by every single stinkin' hero Anderson can draw. Let's see: Was the Silver Agent really guilty of the crime for which he was convicted? Well, yes and no, but the reveal is kind of tucked away on the second-to-last page. I mentioned the Charles/Royal problem with the Blue Knight, which I would think would be a little more prominent. The final page is cool, because it doesn't wrap things up nicely, just like real life doesn't do, but it's a strange issue.

Common Foe #3 by Keith Giffen, Shannon Denton, and Jean-Jacques Dzialowski
$3.50, Image/Desperado

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That's a neat cover, don't you think?

It's nice that Giffen and Denton provide names for all these soldiers, because who cares? Really. They are all in the process of getting eviscerated by these weird creatures who came out of the well, so why do we need to know their names? This is a fun, action-movie-type of book. Creatures come out of the well, start killing German soldiers and move rapidly on to American soldiers, causing Germans and Americans to put aside their enmity and fight together. Many soldiers die. We have no idea what the creatures are. More soldiers die. There are many problems. And finally, more soldiers die. Fun. Batshit insane, but in a good way.

The Intimates #12 by Joe Casey, Alé Garza, and Carlos D'Anda
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

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Another series ends, but not by design. Why can't Casey sell books? I really wonder about that, and I've mentioned it before. He's the Kiss Of Death on a book. It's strange. I don't think it's the quality of the books - The Intimates wasn't the greatest book, I'll admit, but it was certainly better than a lot of books that last a lot longer - but maybe it is. Casey makes some mention of this in the crawl at the bottom of the pages, and he goes meta on us again, like he did at the end of Automatic Kafka, but not as obnoxiously. There's really no point in discussing it.

Buy Gødland, people! One issue won't hurt, will it? The nice thing about Casey is that he never gives up. You don't like Automatic Kafka? Fine, he'll hit you with Wildcats 3.0. Don't like that? Here's The Intimates. Reject that? How about Gødland? The neatest thing is, they're all different. They are all unique. Track them down, even though three out of the four are dead. You won't be disappointed.

Seven Soldiers: Klarion #4 by You-know-who and Frazer Irving
$2.99, DC

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I have noticed that the Morrison backlash has begun. I can't join in, because I still haven't read these, but don't think I haven't noticed, people! Where's the trust that Morrison has an idea in mind and will pull it all together? I trust him, even though I have been disappointed in the past (I still don't get The Invisibles - sorry). However, I will point out that I have a feeling that when all is said and done, this "crossover" will be MUCH better than the other DC crossover. The other will sell more, but in ten or fifteen years, this one will be regarded more highly. Sales don't always mean quality, people!

She-Hulk #1 by Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo
$2.99, Marvel

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Is Marvel batshit insane? Okay, let's relaunch She-Hulk because all the people who didn't buy it last time cried when it went away. It's a light-hearted, fun look at superheroes (which doesn't mean it's for kids, because it ain't) and the interior art reflects that. I love that Jen looks mousy and tiny in the book. So if you're Marvel, how do you sell this sucker? Slap a Greg Horn cheesecake cover on it? Sure, why the hell not? That's not the worst cover in the world, but really - what the hell? What kind of person who buys comics because, say, Jim Balent draws it would like this kind of comic? Maybe they're out there, but I have a feeling they are two different kinds of consumers. What a weird way to market this book.

Some people have bitched about Slott picking on waiting for the trade. Well, on the one hand, it bugs me because it takes us out of what is actually a fun story that has interesting ramifications. On the other hand, Slott is right, and it's why I rarely wait for the trade. I waited for the trade on the last series, and it got canceled because no one was buying it. And guess what? If people don't buy this, they might not even collect it (although Marvel collects everything, so that's probably not going to happen). So until it becomes policy to get rid of monthlies and release everything as a trade, it's probably better to buy the individual issues. This is a fine superhero book. Bobillo's art is better than Pelletier's. There's time travel! There's a surprise guest star! She-Hulk is back. Don't whine when it goes away this time.

Supreme Power: Hyperion #2 by J. Michael Straczynski, Dan Jurgens, and Klaus Janson
$2.99, Marvel

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Here's my batshit insane purchase of the week. Dogpile on me all you like, because I am buying this and the other mini-series simply because I'm a completist. It's ... well, it's not bad, but it's not great. It's certainly not up to the quality of the main title. It's a big fight scene. The smart guy from issue 1, Emil Burbank, is excellent. Other than that, it's just ... kind of there. Call me crazy. Go ahead! I can take it!

X-Men #176 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki with Allen Martinez
$2.50, Marvel

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The third part of the X-Men/Black Panther crossover is a monumental batshit insane book. This is the weirdest book I've read in a long time. It's not very good, either, so the weirdness doesn't help. Let's review:

The villain is the Red Ghost. The. Goddamned. Red. Ghost. For those of you who don't know who the Red Ghost is, count yourself lucky. I'm not even going into it, but quickly: he's a Communist who has an ape army. Read that again and try not to laugh. What the hell is any writer, much less a good one like Milligan, using the Red Ghost? He's played freakin' straight, too, which is even worse. Maybe he could show up in She-Hulk and he would work, but come on - it's the Red Ghost. Stupid damned Commie.

Then there's Black Panther. The last issue of his title was the first one I've read in a while, but when did he turn into a teenager? Isn't he supposed to be stoic? He's acting like a 15-year-old around Ororo. It's idiotic.

The "smart" apes aren't much better. The story makes no sense. The climax is dull. The explanations about what's going on don't exist. The death trap that Polaris is in stinks. And the villain is, in case you didn't know, the Red Ghost. Holy shit.

I'm really disappointed by this issue. I started reading X-Men again because of Milligan, but this is approaching Elektra-Milligan, and that's not good. I will, I think, pick up next issue, because it's not part of a crossover anymore, but he's on extremely thin ice with me. This schizophrenic Milligan is weird.

What do y'all think?

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Anonymous The Goddamn Alex Freakin' W said...

"He's a Communist who has an ape army. Read that again and try not to laugh."

I...can't. Honestly, I've been laughing for the last five minutes. Marvel needs more apes, it feels like when the genre characters got dished out Marvel got more than their fair share of Ninjas, DC got more monkeys. Someone, somewhere is sitting on a huge stockpile of pirates.

I have no idea what the hell is going on with Black Panther, I don't think anyone does. I gave Reggie Hudlin more than a shot, picked up Panther 1-7 and his MK Spidey Arc, but frankly neither of them are very good. And I got the first trade of Milligan's X-Men. But from that, and from what I've seen of the rest of the series, it's somewhere west of deranged too. So frankly it seems perfectly natural that Marvel should throw the two of them together into a crossover arc involving Storm from Claremont's X-Men book. I almost wish I'd stayed on both series just so I could read this train-wreck.

I really, really liked The Intimates, and I'm sure sorry to see it go, but I did like how it wrapped up without resolving most of the 'plot' considering it was alway meant to be a book in which nothing much happened. I'll be buying the Godland trade in January to catch up.

Speaking of which I'm thinking of waiting for the She Hulk trade just for the hell of it.

10/20/2005 08:34:00 PM  
Blogger layne said...

Casey... I don't want to say he's a poor man's Morrison, because it's too glib, but... Personally, I just don't like how he markets his "persona", for lack of a better term. His po-mo hipster "Comics are cool, because hey, I'm cool and I make comics" act leave me cold. And don't get me started on his weekly rub-and-tug session with Fraction. Turns me off of giving his stuff a chance, and on the off chance I do flip through, it doesn't grab me.

But mebbe that's just the Rickard's Red talkin'.

10/20/2005 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Harvey Jerkwater said...

My last trip to the comic shop led to a lot of blank stares from yers truly. Nothing appealed. So I picked up Godland #1-3. And they were...okay.

I'm not quite sure what the fuss is about. Though I do appreciate that Casey and Scioli are at least trying to entertain and they are definately going balls-out, there's not a lot of "there" there. If the Marvel and DC lines weren't so gawdawful right now, I'd say Godland isn't worth your time or money. But they are, so it is.

Seven Soldiers has been fun, goddammit. It helps to read them in clusters, like Greg plans to do. Manhattan Guardian can be read in single issues easily, but Shining Knight and Klarion reeeeally need to be read in one piece to work. Zatanna's in the middle.

...and you know who's sitting on a huge stockpile of pirates?

Me, baby. Me.

10/20/2005 09:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Eli said...

"He's a Communist who has an ape army. Read that again and try not to laugh."

When I read that, all I can do is think how awesome it is. If the Red Ghost had been created for Seaguy, everyone would be going on about what a mad idea it was, and how great ideas are when they're mad, and remarking that the best place to find madness is probably densely packed in the ideas... and on and on and on, until there was an Ellis book to fawn over instead.

In all seriousness, though, I'm as baffled as anyone at the huge range of quality in Milligan's work. He seems to be perfectly capable of producing great stuff, but completely indifferent to if he actually does so.

The Willie Nelson of comics.

10/20/2005 10:54:00 PM  
Blogger Julio Oliveira said...

I was always thought that the Red Ghost was awesome, just for the sheer absurd of his concept. The apes from Red Ghost made a appearence on that New Warriors cartoon-style mini that no one read.

10/20/2005 11:17:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Y'all misunderstand me. The Red Ghost is fine and all, but played straight in this day and age, he just doesn't work. I have no problem with him as a Cold War kind of thing, but he's the kind of villain that needs a revamp to work today, because in case people haven't noticed, the Commies lost. I wouldn't mind seeing him, it's just bizarre in a comic that we're supposed to sort of take seriously. I still don't think we were supposed to take Seaguy seriously (and to be honest, it's not my favorite Morrison work), so yeah, he'd work fine there.

And Layne, I understand your objections to Casey, and it's one reason why I try not to read Casey's column too often, because I would rather judge the work based on the work, not on his personal feelings. I don't feel he slides into the "too cool" mode too often, I just like his ideas. Godland is fun because it's an unapologetic sci-fi superhero comic, done without irony (at least, I think it's unironic, although I'm not too bright).

10/20/2005 11:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Spinner Rack said...

"Maybe he could show up in She-Hulk and he would work, but come on - it's the Red Ghost. Stupid damned Commie."

Interestingly, the Red Ghost did recently show up in a Don Slott written comic: Spider-man/Human Torch. The plot involved the super apes stealing the Spider-mobile and Spider-man foiling the Red Ghost's fiendish plot using Hostess fruit pies.

Read that again and try not to laugh :-)

It's actually one of my favorite issues of the last year or so. It perfectly captured the vibe of mid-70's Marvel comics.

10/21/2005 12:02:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Excellent, Mr. Rack. Does anyone know if that Spidey/Torch thing is out in trade yet? Yes, I missed it when it came out, and I kept hearing good things about it, so I need to pick it up.

10/21/2005 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Where's the trust that Morrison has an idea in mind and will pull it all together?
People are stupid. Morrison writes dense and complex stories that are too much bother to understand when holy shit! Superman just punched a hole in space-time over there.

And guess what? If people don't buy this, they might not even collect it (although Marvel collects everything, so that's probably not going to happen). So until it becomes policy to get rid of monthlies and release everything as a trade, it's probably better to buy the individual issues.
So, what, stalemate? Because Marvel aren't going to start putting things out as trades until people buy them and people aren't buying them if Marvel won't put them out. That's not an ideal situation for anyone.

Take a risk, Marvel. Put out an OGN (probably written by Bendis, because he's just wrong for twenty-two page stories). See how that does.

10/21/2005 12:27:00 AM  
Blogger Loren said...

Excellent, Mr. Rack. Does anyone know if that Spidey/Torch thing is out in trade yet?

Indeed it is, though in digest form rather than full-sized tpb. I'm not really a Marvel fan, but I rather enjoyed the book.

10/21/2005 01:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

See, without having read X-Men/Black Panther, if you told me Peter Milligan was writing a Red Ghost story, I would suspect it would rock.

10/21/2005 04:32:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

The Spidey/Human Torch book is in trade, and I just reviewed it yesterday on my blog in fact ( It's in a cheap-ass digest form too, which is a plus.

10/21/2005 01:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Chuck T. said...

I like the Red Ghost in the context of cranky old commie with apes who bugs the Fantastic Four every so often. Evan Dorkin's Thing series used him well, more as a plot point than a character. Milligan's either got something up his sleeve, or is completely cracked out.
This week for me: Fin Fang Four was great. Authority: Revolution is over, and dead to me. Justice...$3.50 is kind of steep.

10/21/2005 02:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Eli said...

I think there could be a still-half-serious story written about where the communist ape movement goes now. Have they adapted their sociopolitical worldview? Do they still adhere to a more-or-less Soviet worldview, or have they discovered Gramsci and adapted? Are they pathetic or brave as remnants of a once-strong global communist movement?

Sounds fun to me.

10/21/2005 06:20:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Milligan is not writing that story, Eli. Trust me.

10/21/2005 06:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Eli said...

Just you wait, Greg. The next arc is a six-parter where Husk and Unus the Untouchable debate Trostkyism over Iced Americanos and cigarettes in Unus's Brooklyn apartment.

In the end they get depowered for no reason at all, because that's how you make boring storylines suddenly exciting, apparently.

10/22/2005 03:23:00 AM  
Blogger Marionette said...

The apes from Red Ghost made a appearence on that New Warriors cartoon-style mini that no one read.

Hey! I read it and it's not over yet. It's a fantastic little series that I would recommend to everyone. Twice. And the apes issue is an excellent usage of the characters. I'd be disappointed to find that it was invalidated by the X-Men story, but since I doubt I'll ever read it, I shall purge any knowledge of its existance from my mind.

10/22/2005 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger kelvingreen said...

Definitely. The new New Warriors is great fun, and the issue with the ex-Commie apes had some excellent moments.

But it's a Modern Marvel Miniseries which means it's (a) better than most of their regular titles, and (b) being read by three people and an arthritic chicken.

10/23/2005 11:35:00 PM  

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