Thursday, November 24, 2005

What I bought - 23 November 2005

I may be burned out. I bought 14 comic books yesterday. FOURTEEN! Holy crap, that's a lot. Not one of them published by anyone outside the Big Four, either. And you know what? None really made me stop and think, "That was excellent." There were some very good issues, some issues that were okay, and some that were the last issues of a title I'm going to buy. Am I burned out? I don't want to be, but it's getting to the end of the year, which is when I reassess which titles I buy. Some will not make the cut.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her ... #3 by Richard K. Morgan, Sean Phillips, and Bill Sienkiewicz
$2.99, Marvel
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This is kind of a treading water issue. Blech, I hate treading water issues. Don't get me wrong - we get quite a bit of information that will presumably be important about Augusto Pinochet, and any comic book that delves in 30-year-old Chilean history can't be that bad, can it? However, Natasha gets into a completely superfluous pissing match with Matt Murdock, and it goes on and on. It might turn out to be germane to the plot, but it feels superfluous, and that's what annoys me. I know that Natasha herself wears a costume, and Daredevil is much more of a crime comic than a superhero book, but his presence in what is basically a spy thriller bugs me. I want to read a Black Widow book that doesn't reference Daredevil in any way! It's been done before. Why can't it be done now? Nick Fury gets beaten up. Ha ha. That's what we like to see!

Catwoman #49 by Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods
$2.50, DC
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I want to like this. The art remains beautiful, and I like Pfeifer's characterization of Selina, and the interaction between the characters feels right. But the story, oh the story. Last month Selina died. Well, okay, she didn't, and now she's out for revenge against Hugo Strange and the rest of the cabal that killed her! Run for the hills! The problem with this conclusion is that Pfeifer spent so much time setting up the whole "bad guys taking over the East End" thing and Selina puts the kibosh on it so easily. Why did it take her so long? And why did she need to fake her death? As Hugo Strange himself puts it, he's died so many times that it just doesn't scare him anymore. Go, Hugo! It's just a disappointing payoff. Zatanna shows up at the end for next issue's "Everything you know about Selina is wrong!" revelation, and I'll buy it because of the good stuff I mentioned before I started bashing the book, but it's on notice. ON NOTICE!

Oh, and I hate the skull Black Mask. HATE HIM! I miss the guy with the burned face. Now there was a gangster you could respect.

Daredevil #79 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
$2.99, Marvel
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Well. Bendis is close to finishing, and it's just okay. It's a big fight issue with Elektra and Murdock beating on and getting beaten on by Bullseye. Hey, remember when Bullseye had a cool costume? I'm glad they got rid of that stupid-looking thing and etched a target in his forehead. So much better. Anyway, the end of the issue is what's important, when Fisk drops a bombshell. It's kind of a stupid bombshell, and it doesn't have the impact that Bendis is obviously hoping for. It might work out, but I don't have high hopes. The big problem I've had with this storyline is that it simply rehashes things that have been done more than once by other writers, and it makes very little sense if you think too much about it. Disappointing. Pull it together, Bendis! Please! Don't ruin a great run on the title!

Paladin has a cameo. How awesome is that???? Freakin' Paladin.

Down #1 by Warren Ellis, Tony Harris, Ray Snyder and Dexter Vines
$2.99, Image/Top Cow
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I'm worried about Warren. Someone should force him to write a book without the same protagonist. I'm tired of them. Please, Warren - write a book about an accountant who's afraid of his wife! Or an ad executive who faints at the sight of blood! Something different, please! You're a good writer ... aren't you? Aren't you????

Oh, the book? Tough chick cop, kills drug dealers because they're about to rape someone, gets suspended, is forced to go undercover because she'll get fired if she doesn't, kills rapists because she was raped herself ... I don't want to write blah, blah, blah, but what the hell - blah, blah, blah. Add to it the somewhat rushed but still pretty Tony Harris art (with people with tattoos - who'da thunk it?) but only for one issue (Cully Hamner takes over next issue, which isn't that bad a thing) and you have a book that is just blah. As you know, I have pre-ordered issue #3, but I will have to think about picking it up when it comes out. On the inside cover it says Part 1 of 4. I like to give books a few issues to win me over. I don't know if this is a mini-series or an ongoing, but I might - might - give it four issues. Sigh. Ellis is better than this, isn't he?

Ex Machina #16 by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm
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Hmmm. Even one of my favorite titles is treading water this month. It's supposed to be the second part of a two-part story, so things wrap up, but it's kind of blah. It would be okay if, maybe, it's the second of THREE parts, but as a conclusion, it's dull. We learn about Mitch's father, and he acts all badass with some local yahoos, and then it ends. Mitch's mother comes to New York to live with him, so that's a development, but that's about it. Better Harris art than in Down. Still a good book, but this issue was a bit lackluster.

Girls #7 by Jonathan and Joshua Luna
$2.99, Image
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Well, I thought this was a mini-series, and I was willing to stick it out. It's not a mini-series, it's an ongoing, and that means I am leaving it behind. Goodbye, Girls. You are not good. I just don't care about any of these characters. Not even the naked ones. How sad is that when I don't care about naked women? Bad news.

Gødland #5 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
$2.99, Image
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I'm sorry to say, but if everything about this comic was exactly the same and it said "Morrison" on the front, people would be writing paeans to what's going on in their pants like Paul did. Admit it!!!! Each issue adds a bit more to the tapestry that Casey and Scioli are creating, and we get a little more insight into the characters even as we're getting beautiful full-page spreads like when Adam, Neela, and Crashman tear into the torture-bots. Go, heroes! There's a new mystery, the one of Iboga, and there's some nice internal stuff with Adam. When he first appeared, we thought he was just a standard hero, but he's envious of Crashman and doesn't listen to his sister and gets grumpy when things don't go his way. This is such a gorgeous book, and it's a lot of fun. And it's not even written by The God Of All Comics!

Jack Cross #4 by Ellis and Gary Erskine
$2.50, DC
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See, the nice thing about this is that it's a four-issue arc, and now it's over. Goodbye, Jack Cross, whenever you return. This is why I'm worried about Warren. This is totally paint-by-numbers comics. Death and dying, evil government agents, ranting about freedom and how the Patriot Act is a bad thing - listen, I liked it in Transmetropolitan because it was a better story and Spider was more interesting than Jack, but here it's just a Warren screed. Blech. Speaking of freedom, is there a better feeling than the freedom you have when you drop a book? Aaaaahhhhhhh.

Perhapanauts #1 by Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau
$2.99, Dark Horse
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I was on the fence about buying this, but then Eliot Johnson ordered us all to buy it, so I decided to pick it up. I'm glad I did. This is a really good book. The concept isn't all that unique - a group of weird people investigating all the weird things in the universe - but it's how it's executed that does it all, right? We are introduced to BEDLAM - The Bureau of Extra-Dimensional Liabilities and Management - and a team of Perhapanauts: Arisa the psychic, MG, Molly the ghost, Big (as in "Bigfoot"), and El Chupacabras ("Choopie") the mythical Latin American goat-sucker. They go out and investigate a monster that has suddenly appeared in Massachusetts. They fight the monster. Then things start to happen.

Because I'm not a scumbag, I'm certainly not going to ruin the ending, which is pretty neat. It's the kind of twist that makes you want to read more, not leave you sitting there thinking, "How stupid!" It's very interesting. I will buy the next issue to see where it goes. It's a good comic. If you're not going to buy the monthlies, get the trade. It's cool. It's actually better in this format, because now we all have to sit on pins and needles until next month!

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #4 by Grant Morrison, Ryan Sook, and Mick Gray
$2.99, DC
Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #1 by Morrison and Doug Mahnke
$2.99, DC
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So I didn't read them, but goddamn! they look cool.

She-Hulk #2 by Dan Slott, Juan Bobillo, and Marcelo Sosa
$2.99, Marvel
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This issue perfectly sums up why I don't like time travel stories: they make my head hurt. I will not think too much about the time travel plot. You can't make me!

That's all window dressing, anyway. The two important plot points are how Jen deals with Hawkeye and whether she should warn him about his impending death. This is a tough moral choice, and Jen has a great deal to think about. It's very funny how, when Hawkeye goes out on patrol, all the people he encounters sputter about how he's dead, but he misunderstands him. The other point, and by far the more interesting, is Jen's increasing split personality. This is different from Bruce Banner's, because Jen is aware of her two sides and does not feel they are necessarily in conflict with each other. She knows she has issues with the two sides, but doesn't see it as that big a deal. It's something that I hope gets explored, especially because Jen likes being She-Hulk more and, it seems, everyone else likes Jen better. Very neat. And the art continues to be excellent.

Why, oh why is Marvel publishing these with Greg Horn covers? They are completely incongruous with the interiors.

Ultimate X-Men #65 by Brian K. Vaughan, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.50, Marvel
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Whenever I mention I buy this, someone picks on me. That's okay - I can take it! I don't care, either, because although I own every issue, with Vaughan as writer this has become a wonderful straight-forward superhero title. Vaughan is channeling Claremont (the good one) in that he introduces plots and wraps things up but remembers them and shows how they tie together later on. Witness Longshot's appearance here. It's somewhat obvious where the issue is going, but it's still a cool twist at the end. This is Vaughan's last issue, and although he has told complete stories, he still leaves things there for the new writer (Robert Kirkman) to play with. This is an excellent comic book. Let us hope it continues that way.

Waterloo Sunset #4 by Andrew Stephenson and Trevor Goring
$6.99, Image
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The mini-series wraps up with this issue, and it's been a long time since #1 came out, and I'm just exhausted by it. I like it, and it's gorgeous to look at, and when I sit down and re-read it all at once I'll like it more, but it has some problems. The biggest one is that Stephenson knows so much about this world (it takes place in 2051) that he forgets that we don't know as much as he does. The people say cryptic things that sound meaningful, but are so oblique that we're not sure what's going on. We can follow the story well enough, but I always got the sense that I was missing a lot. It is a fascinating science fiction book, and has a lot to recommend it, but it's a bit tough to get through. Sit down with the trade (if it gets collected) and take your time.

Phew. That's a crapload of comics. At least I can drop some titles!

I hope everyone had a groovy Thanksgiving!

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Anonymous The Ever-Lovin' Alex Freakin' W said...

Remember that the Warren Ellis & Tony Harris responsible for Down (which I agree with you all the way about - not a good thing when the pre-release copy actually summarises the whole first issue) are from four years ago. That's twenty eight cat years, and I bet Warren Ellis has about seven cats, so go figure.

I like how Jack Cross is so bad that he's just ignoring the chaos around him and shooting the reader!

I will buy the Godland trade, I swear, please leave me alone.

11/25/2005 04:19:00 AM  
Anonymous Aine said...

Maybe I just watch too much bad TV but does anyone else think that on the cover of She-Hulk #2 our green lady looks suspiciously like Janice Dickinson from America's Next Top Model?

11/25/2005 05:59:00 AM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

seven soldiers was by far the best books out this week.

The Fight Between Zatanna and Zor...


Frankenstein was creepy awesome//mankhe channels corben = reader wins all.

11/25/2005 06:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Dizzy D said...

I'm worried about Warren. Someone should force him to write a book without the same protagonist. I'm tired of them. Please, Warren - write a book about an accountant who's afraid of his wife! Or an ad executive who faints at the sight of blood! Something different, please! You're a good writer ... aren't you? Aren't you????

I have mentioned this before as well. The solution: Warren, write a story in a culture without cigarretes (and trenchcoats/ties/leather jackets). No, this is not a Truth-campaign, it would just take away his usual "Main protagonist lights up a cig, leans back and make cynical comment"-shtick. Medieval Romance, Roman Political, African Tribal, South American/Conquistadores War.. just pick one and write a story about it, Mr. Ellis.

Godland is my only subscription right about now (mostly because I know that my comicshop wouldn't carry it otherwise) and well worth it so far.

And Ultimate X-men *is* good. And Kirkman is a great writer, so I'm not too worried about Vaughn leaving (sad to see him go, still)

11/25/2005 06:17:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I've liked Seven Soldiers for the most part, especially Klarion and Manhattan Guardian, but Zatanna was downright awful. It didn't just change directions every issue - it lost track of whatever direction it was going in in the first place. The crossover elements seemed hastily tacked on, and caused the plot to crash wildly from point to point, as opposed to something like Klarion, where the overarching plot of the series interwove rather neatly with the overarching plot of the crossover.

And what was with "Zor"? Would it kill to introduce the villain before the final showdown? I suppose this could be some character that'll be explained in the later minis, but if so, t still had no impact on me as a reader other than "this is some weird dude who looks like Zatanna's dad."

And that scene where Zatanna "reaches through the page" to talk to the Seven Unknown Men in a pose laughably reminiscent of the "breaking the wall" scene in Animal Man? Just chalk it up as more evidence that Morrison's metafiction is a tic, not a theme. Bleh.

11/25/2005 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

There was some deleted metafiction scenes from Mister Miracle too. A perfect example of editorial interference actually working for good for once.

11/25/2005 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger Eliot Johnson said...

Glad that my order didn't go in vain.

Perhapanauts is fun fun fun, yes. awesome possum.

If you can get ahold of the preceding mini-comics...they're jsut as fun if not more fun.

11/25/2005 08:41:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Soar said...

If you enjoyed Perhapanauts, you might also try Paradox #1 from Arcana. I read both of them and gave Paradox a slight edge over Perhapanauts, just because some of the twists were amusing.

Review (of both) here:
Mo's Comics

11/26/2005 12:42:00 PM  
Anonymous A.L. Baroza said...

Zatanna was apparently the victim of major rewrites during the course of its run. Whether it was Morrison changing his mind as he went along or Infinite Crisis-mandated editorial influence is anybody's guess. It did seem very disjointed, but the art was awful purty. Ryan Sook makes everything acceptable.

And I was underwhelmed by the revelation of Zor, too. I found out through the blogs that Zor was a Golden Age Spectre villain, and apparently revealed to be a renegade Time Tailor, although Morrison isn't clear about that. Having all of that dropped in the last few pages of the mini isn't the best kind of writing.

I was okay with the meta stuff because you didn't have to read it as meta. She could simply be reaching into the realm of the Unknown Men. But yeah, the concept of metafiction isn't as clever as Morrison thinks it is.

My verdict: uneven but gorgeous, and fun if you don't think about it too much.

11/27/2005 03:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

But yeah, the concept of metafiction isn't as clever as Morrison thinks it is.

I should be clear here and note that I really do like metafiction - "If On A Winter's Night a Traveler" is one of my favorite books, for example. What I don't like is gratuitous metafictive touches that aren't actually metafiction. They just use metafictive imagery to add an incongruous punch to the story.

For example, Zatanna's "reaching through the fourth wall" is a relatively powerful metafictive sight gag, but here is employed strictly for its power as a sight gag divorced from its meaning. Whatever other themes are running around in Zatanna - transformation, mentor figures, failure and redemption - this was not a book about fiction or the process of making fiction. The "wall-breaking" is employed strictly to look cool, which would be alright if that imagery didn't come loaded with meaning (Zatanna is reaching out for the page at us, and making a plea for help - to us). If Zatanna had killed Zor by impaling him with a giant crucifix while singing the Ave Maria, it would be a powerful image - but a laughably incongruous one as well. If you're not going to back up the meaning of that imagery, don't throw it around.

My larger complaint about Morrison and metafiction is that even when he uses metafiction itself, and not merely the imagery associated with it, he's never managed to explore it beyond his use of the writer as a metaphor for control. This worked in The Filth because The Filth was generally about control and abuse, and mostly worked in Animal Man as long as it primarily related to Animal Man and his desire to unravel the ultimate cause of his own problems, which were the heart and soul of the series (whenever it became mostly about commenting on Crisis, or mostly about Grant Morrison and his cat, the comic became a lot weaker).

11/27/2005 07:29:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

If on a winter's night a traveler - now that's a good book. Well done, Mr. Lungfish!

11/27/2005 04:37:00 PM  

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