Saturday, December 31, 2005

What I bought - 29 December 2005

Every week, I stroll into the venerable comic book shoppe and think I won't spend a lot of doubloons or leave with that many books to read. Oh, I am foolish, good readers. Foolhardy to the X-treeeem!

Sigh. Onward, as I dip further into the kids' college funds. They don't need higher education, do they?

10 by Keith Giffen and Andy Kuhn
$6.99, Boom!
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Some people really liked this. In fact, Mr. Bacardi put it on his honorable mention list of best books of the year. I must respectfully disagree. I guess I just don't get it. Kuhn's Tim-Sale-esque art is very nice, and it's neat to see it in color, but the story really leaves me cold. Really. It's brutal, nasty, cruel, and I would say misogynistic, but it hates all people, women and men alike, so whatever the adjective is for that, it's that (anti-human?). The story, if you don't know, is simple: random people receive a letter and a gun in the mail. The letter gives them the name of another person, tells them they are part of ten randomly selected people, and says they have to kill all the other ten. One lucky person has received all the names on the list. They have ten days to kill everyone else. If they go to the police they will be killed. Mayhem ensues.

I love this concept. It's why I ordered the book and why I looked forward to it. However, the execution isn't very good. I have the same reaction to it that I had to Planet of the Capes - namely, what's the point? By the bloody end, no one has learned much of anything and everything seems a bit worse in the world. I like the way the story progresses, for the most part, but if the whole point of this book is to say that life is random and you can be killed at any time - well, I don't need a comic book to tell me that, because I've experienced it in my own life, and I suspect a lot of people have too. This is really just a pointless exercise in brutality, and after a while, it just gets depressing. I wanted to cheer for someone in the book, even an anti-hero, but we get nobody, just a bunch of people doing horrible things to each other. I suspect it's too short. Maybe if it had been a mini-series and the characters were fleshed out a little more I'd care when they got a bullet in the brain. As it is, this is a nice-looking, intriguing mess. It's too bad.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her ... #4 by Richard K. Morgan, Sean Phillips, and Bill Sienkiewicz
$2.99, Marvel
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Is that Sally Anne on the cover? It seems to imply she's manipulating things. Is that it? I need answers!

We're on the downward arc of the mini-series, so Natasha is taking control and rescuing Sally Anne from her Panamanian prison, while Matt Murdock goes apeshit when the government doesn't do what he wants. It seems really out of character for Murdock to go so nuts. Strange. Anyway, it's tough to talk about this issue, because it's a lot of chess pieces moving across the board so we're set up for the big finale, but everything is coming together slowly but surely. Spy stories like this work well in comics, and I wonder why a ongoing isn't viable. But that's just me.

Catwoman #50 by Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods
$2.50, DC
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Man, that's a nice cover.

And so we reach issue 50, and I should really make up my mind whether I'm going to continue buying this or not. I'm still torn. This issue was interesting, mostly for the Angle Man subplot. The main story, with Zatanna telling Selina that the Justice League brainwiped her like they did Dr. Light (and countless others!) ...

Here's the thing. I loved the "reformed" Magneto. I do not like the "reformed" Emma Frost. The reason is because Magneto's reformation was a gradual process, one that he arrived at after much soul-searching. It's a wonderful story that Claremont built over many issues and continued with Magneto always questioning whether he did the right thing or not and all the X-Men wondering if they can trust him. Emma Frost, however, is suddenly put in charge of Generation X, and although they're not sure if they can trust her, there's never a sense that she made a conscious choice to be good as a character - Lobdell just decided he needed her in that position, and she was "good." So I like realistic transformations from bad to good (or vice versa). For years I liked what writers had done with Selina - I didn't necessarily agree with it, because I think she makes a fine villain, but I liked that they gradually turned her into a hero, albeit a reluctant and narrowly focused one. Now comes this. It's annoying. And stupid.

And here's another thing: why the hell was the Justice League mindwiping petty criminals like Selina Kyle? Brainwash the Joker or Luthor, for crying out loud! Stupid. That's why I don't like this whole subplot of the Crisis thing - it makes no sense, not only in the real world, but in the context of the DC Universe, either. Blech.

I don't blame Pfeifer. This is obviously editorial mandate. That's why I may have to stick with this book for a little bit longer, because I like the way Pfeifer is developing the characters. Just because I don't like the über-plot doesn't mean that the little parts aren't interesting.

Daredevil #80 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
$2.99, Marvel
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I have a question: Does Elektra wear anything under that thing around her waist? It does not appear that she does, which means that when she's flying around throwing sais at people, they'd be easily dispatched because they'd be busy checking out her goodies. I'm just wondering aloud here, people!

The reason I wonder about these things is because I'm waiting for something to goddamn happen! Dear Lord, this is tedious. I still submit that Bendis's whole run on Daredevil is very good, but I have admitted and will continue to admit that each individual issue can try the very patience of Job! I can see him on the ash heap now: "Lord, you have taken away my wife, my children, my friends, my wealth, and my sanity, all in some bizarre effort to prove you're better than Satan, and I have been patient through it all. But please, God, don't make me read another single issue of Daredevil without waiting for the trade! Anything but that!"

But waiting for the trade is for wusses - yes, I said wusses! - so I soldier on, and I read each 23-page slice of nail-biting tension - like those three pages of scintillating conversation between the Night Nurse and Elektra (actual dialogue - my wife says I'm boring, but I can't be this boring if I tried):

Night Nurse: This wound is gaping. He lost a lot of blood.
Elektra: I know.
NN: You really shouldn't have moved him.
E: I had no choice!! [Two exclamation points - very important!!]
NN: What happened?
E: He was shot.
NN: By who? [It's "whom," damn it!!]
E: I don't know. It was a sniper attack.
NN: Was it a bullet?
E: Of course it was.
NN: Not necessarily. It could have been a laser. It could have been a -
E: I don't know.
NN: You didn't see the shell?
E: It happened quickly. His shoulder exploded.
Greg: GAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! GAAAAAAAAHHHHH! [That is, of course, the sound of me sticking a knitting needle into my urethra just so something happens!]

Ugh. Next issue - the last Bendis issue. What will happen? More to the point, will something happen? Exactly what are they charging Murdock with, anyway? If they mentioned it in previous issues, I've forgotten. Is it just a vendetta by that porky FBI agent? Has he been framed for murder? Sigh.

Fallen Angel #1 by Peter David and J.K. Woodward
$3.99, IDW
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Cronin already posted about this, but I figure I'll also try to convince you to buy it. First, it's beautiful. Yes, one of the characters looks too much like Lucy Liu, but that's okay. Look at that cover - the rest of the book is as purty. Trust me. If you didn't buy the previous series from DC (and apparently, many of you didn't), that's okay - David makes this new series accessible to anyone who doesn't know what's going on, while still tipping his hat to the last series. It's 20 or so years after the end of the last series, and Lee still lives in Bete Noire and Juris still runs the show. He is about to turn authority over to his son, but complications arise. Perhaps Lee didn't miscarriage like we all believed?

As with most David books, this drops a lot of hints about things to come and demands your long-term commitment. That's the pleasure and perhaps the problem with David's books - occasionally your patience is seriously tested. I liked the old series, and I'm looking forward to this, so I'll buy it. I know it's 4 dollars, but you should still check it out and give it a chance. It's dark and moody and weird and slightly off-kilter, and the idea of Bete Noire is intriguing. With a move to IDW, it may last longer this time.

JLA: Classified #15 by Warren Ellis and Jackson Guice
$2.99, DC
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The last ugly cover, the last Ellis issue. Chris thinks this is a great comic. Well, it's good, but like I did with Mr. Bacardi, I must respectfully disagree. As a single issue, it's very good. As the final issue of a six-issue storyline, it feels like Ellis could have wrapped this sucker up three issues ago. The Justice League gets it together so quickly that the threat just seems silly in retrospect. I was hoping for something better, and I didn't get it.

However, I do like the way the characters are portrayed in the comic. Ellis's characterization of the DC's big guns is spot on, and it reminds again why Morrison's JLA was so good - he understood that these heroes would bring their exterior lives to their superheroing, and he didn't forget that. Too many writers forget that Clark is a reporter and Kyle is an artist. Ellis didn't, and that's what makes this issue particularly interesting. Despite my disappointment with the resolution of the story, the characters remind us again why they're cool. The pieces are there, writers - all you have to do is pick them up!

Guice's art is ugly this issue - it looks rushed. Oh well.

The Keep #3 by F. Paul Wilson and Matthew Smith
$3.99, IDW
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I mentioned that I was considering dropping this after last issue, but a few of the commenters convinced me to try the next issue. See? You people have clout, too! I'm glad I did, as this is an intriguing issue that deepens the mystery of the keep a little more as well as bringing in a new character who feels slightly malevolent but may be a good guy. We'll have to wait and see! Someone told me the guy in the keep wasn't a vampire, but he seems like one, and I guess I can wait to find out what he is. I like that a character brought up the crosses all over the keep, which seems to argue against a vampire. I still don't like the sympathetic Nazi soldier (he's probably not a Nazi, but he's still a German soldier in World War II), but I can live with it. This is a strong issue, and I'm glad I kept up with the title. Sure, it's 4 dollars, but as Cronin said about Fallen Angel, the paper is so thick you could kill a mongoose by throwing the comic at it. Now that's getting value for your money!

The Perhapanauts #2 by Todd Dezago and Craig Rousseau
$2.99, Dark Horse
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While this is not as gut-wrenching as the first issue, it does a nice job of explaining the events of issue #1 without really being a cop-out (well, too much of one), although the timing seems to be messed up a bit - I'll have to go look at the first issue and see if everything meshes together. Anyway, our heroes discover exactly what they brought back last issue, and there are nice examples of teamwork, and there's yet another cliffhanger, although not as dramatic as the one from last issue. The nice thing about these first two issues is the way they're presented - yes, it's a mini-series, so they are interconnected, but each issue so far has told a complete story, with a conflict, a resolution, and a cliffhanger. It's a good serial in that we get a lot of information in each issue, but Todd and Craig (as in the official title of the book - Todd and Craig's The Perhapanauts) make us want to come back next issue. Unlike, say, freakin' Bendis, who makes you want to put knitting needles in unpleasant orifices.

Rex Libris #2 by James Turner
$2.95, SLG
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This came out a few weeks ago, but I just found it, so I thought I'd mention it. You see, I didn't read it. You see, I got the first issue when it came out, and, well, I haven't read that yet. I keep meaning to, but it's going to take me a week to get through it, and I keep forgetting. I read the first few pages and laughed a lot, and I flipped through this and thought it was funny, so I recommend it based on that and the fact that Turner's Nil: A Land Beyond Belief is excellent, but that's all I got. Sorry.

She-Hulk #3 by Dan Slott and a bunch of artists
$3.99, Marvel
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This is the 100th issue of a She-Hulk comic, spread out over, what, four separate series (which shows you how popular she is), and Slott does a nice job with what is basically a recap of her history. Jennifer is on trial for tampering with the time stream (by trying to rescue Hawkeye from death), and so all her friends try to prove she shouldn't be removed from continuity because she's unique. In the end, of course, she proves that she deserves to exist, but what's interesting about the book is how generic Slott really makes her - she doesn't necessarily deserve to be in continuity, even though she wins! It's a nice, subversive shot at comic book characters, who are, let's face it, only as good or necessary as the talent behind them (witness Ellis on the Justice League above). I suppose John Byrne shows up (it looks like Byrne, at least), and Slott takes a shot at his Doom Patrol, which is nice, and I always thought Razorback, the trucker from outer space, was a fun character, so it's nice to see him, especially because the reason he gives for Jennifer to exist is her tremendous breasts. Now that's a good reason! It's all very fun, until Slott gets sappy in the end (I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing it out), and it's a nice anniversary issue. I look forward to a return to less epic stories and more goofy ones (although, don't get me wrong, this is plenty goofy). There are a lot of reasons to like this book. Let's hope it stays that way.

Silent Dragon #6 by Andy Diggle, Leinil Francis Yu, and Gerry Alanguilan
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm
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This is such a pretty book and it started off so well that it makes my disappointment with the ending all the more acute. I mean, this is as much of a mess as the last issue of JLA: Classified. Renjiro dispatches Manzo rather quickly, and then it's off to find the real villain behind everything. Takara acts strangely, and I just couldn't figure out what was going on for most of the issue. That's bad. I will sit down and read this whole thing again to see if I missed anything, but right now, the first four issues of the series were very good, but it went off the rails in issues #5 and 6. Am I wrong in this? Does anyone think this ended satisfactorily? Is it just me and my weak brain?

Spider-Man And The Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #5 by Kevin Smith, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson
$2.99, Marvel
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Damn. I had October 2013 for the date the last issue of this came out in the office pool, and it looks like I'm going to lose my dime. Shit.

I didn't read this either, because I'm waiting for the last issue and then I will sit down and read the whole thing. I've heard disturbing things about it that may piss me off when I do actually read it. If so, you will reap the benefit of my vitriol. Stay tuned!

X-Factor #2 by Peter David, Ryan Sook, Dennis Callero, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.99, Marvel
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Uh-oh. Sook is already not drawing the entire issue. Is he supposed to be the regular artist, or is just getting the book off the ground? I'm not sure, but the other artist (Callero) tries to keep his look close to Sook's, so the transition isn't that bad. This is a good follow-up to the first issue, as X-Factor solves its first case, but it leads to more ugliness and murder, Monet rescues Rictor and convinces him to join the team, and Siryn wants to strike back at the evil, rival detective agency that killed Vicky. It's a nice issue, and as I mentioned with Fallen Angel, David is setting up plotlines that will last for months, I'm sure. I don't mind Layla Miller (I know someone mentioned where she came from, but I can't remember), but I do mind her annoying way of reminding everyone that she's Layla Miller and that she knows stuff. This is the worst thing about David's writing - he often thinks he's more clever than he actually is. Don't get me wrong - he's often clever, but sometimes he goes way too far, and this is one time. Keep her on the team, because I think she's interesting, but figure out how to make her less annoying.

X-Men #180 by Peter Milligan, Roger Cruz, and Victor Olazaba
$2.50, Marvel
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Milligan begins to unravel the mystery of what Lorna saw in space, and while it's certainly not as menacing as I expected (it could still turn out to be, I suppose), it's certainly something. The nice thing about this issue is the nice thing about every Milligan X-Men issue so far - the interaction between the characters. Scott fails to convince Alex to stay, even though he bares his soul to him, but he and Emma convince Bobby to stay, which is nice. I'm sick of Emma dressing like a whore all the time, especially when everyone around her has normal clothes on, but I guess I'll have to deal with it. The main part of the issue is Lorna and Alex wandering the globe (that's what we're told they do, although the issue is set in Costa Rica) trying to figure out what happened to Lorna. They're posing as "normal" folk (I guess Lorna now counts as "normal"), but things always come up in Mutant-Land, don't they, that make someone use their powers - in this case, Alex. The lady with the hockey mask shows up again, so that's nice, and the thing Lorna saw in space conveniently drops from the sky in Costa Rica, so that's nice too. I'm looking forward to seeing how Milligan ties this all together next issue. I know I've been on the fence about his run, but I am warming up to it, and I hope this issue shows that he's warming up to the characters as well. It's an interesting and mostly quiet issue, but it's good.

Larroca takes the month off, and Cruz draws. I haven't seen Cruz's pencils since the Age of Apocalypse ten years ago, and I hated them then, but he's gotten better. The art isn't great, but it's pretty good, and Alex using his powers looks cool.

Well, that's another big week for me. I do it all for you, the reading public!

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Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

I would say misogynistic, but it hates all people, women and men alike, so whatever the adjective is for that, it's that

The word is "misanthropic."

I always find it interesting when comic book readers make comments like "Scantily clad female character X should stop dressing like a whore." What, exactly, constitutes "dressing like a whore" in a genre where the overwhelming majority of the characters are walking around in skintight spandex? I bet we could make out Superman's package through his pants if he were running around in the real world; does that make him whore-like, or does he need to show some skin? Thor ran around topless for a while, and Namor of course is decked out in a scaly speedo, showing more flesh than anything this side of a Jim Balent comic. Does the Sub-Mariner qualify for whoriness, or does he need a vagina?

(The term "man-whore," while a nice attempt, doesn't really help us out much here, since it expressly identifies "whore" as being something other than masculine, and modifies the word to describe an exception to the rule.)

12/31/2005 02:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Tremendous guilt over the slaughter of the Hellions by Trevor Fitzroy isn't enough for a character change, Greg?

I'm just tired of writers tearing down sexually assertive, independent women and then crying about how all their fans are geeks who can't get laid.


12/31/2005 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger naladahc said...

I'm pretty angry over the whole Selina brainwashing.

It angered me so much I basically threw the comic across the room.

Why oh why can't a character like Selina have real character development and drama (or so we've been lead to believe all these years) to have it all thrown out in 2 pages?!?!?! What the phrock!?!?!?!

What a disservice to the reader of all these years.

12/31/2005 04:32:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Thanks, Lungfish. Misanthropic.

You bring up a good point about dressing like a whore. Sure, most comic book characters are walking around in spandex and others are showing off impossibly huge pecs. I always make that point when my non-comic-reading friends point out that all the women have huge breasts and tiny waists - I tell them that all the men have huge pecs and rock hard abs, because both men and women are idealized in comics. My point is that Emma ALWAYS dresses like that, and in the scene I'm talking about, it's weird, because all the men are in street clothes. Wear a sweatshirt occasionally, Emma! Sheesh. That's what I meant. When superheroes are in costume, they all look like whores, men and women. In contrast, Lorna spends most of the issue in street clothes, and while they show a fair amount of skin, her clothes are definitely not whorish. Writers and artists, it seems, see Emma as a complete sexualized being, and it's kind of disappointing that they can't be bothered to do more with her (even Morrison and Quitely, it seemed, did this with her a lot).

Sorry, Dan, but I don't buy the slaughter of the Hellions as an excuse. Sure, Emma felt bad about it, but previously she was shown as basically using the Hellions to further her own ends. So even that guilt felt forced. I know that's what writers point to, and that's fine, but it doesn't work for me. It seems rushed.

Am I tearing down sexually assertive and independent women, or are you referring to somebody else? I don't mean to. I just want Emma to wear more comfortable clothes occasionally instead of those leather scraps. And I actually like the sexually aggressive Emma who seduced Scott. I just find it interesting that now their relationship is supposed to be greater than Scott and Jean's ever was. I still don't buy it. I'll be a lot happier when Emma resorts to form and tells Scott she was just using him for sex. Now that's an Emma I can support!

See? I knew some people were angry at Kevin Smith. I look forward to reading this and feeling the hate myself!

I'm with you, naladahc.

12/31/2005 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Brad Curran said...

From what I gather of what's going on in Astonishing X-Men (I gave up on it before the end of the Danger storyline), you'll probably be getting your wish for Emma in the near future.

12/31/2005 10:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Greg: I'm referring to general trends, not you specifically.

1/01/2006 04:03:00 PM  

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