Thursday, January 26, 2006

What I bought - 25 January 2006

Let's see - a comic I can't imagine many people are buying continues to do its fine work, a comic I probably won't be buying soon annoys me, a comic with a long-running creative team ends on a weird and unsatisfying note, a comic that got a second chance at a different company ships its second issue, with the usual goodness and questions, one of the best comics on the market continues its cosmic wildness, another comic that is on the fence with me shows up in a different city, a comic about B-list superheroes rocks, a comic that should make a lot of people angry finally comes to an end, a mini-series that you should all be buying ships its penultimate issue (and I didn't read it), and a comic that disappointed me with a perplexing revelation and the return (yawn) of a crappy villain - what did I buy? Guess before you look!

Atomika #6 (of 12) by Andrew Dabb and Sal Abbinanti
$2.99, Mercury Comics
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I'm still reading Atomika, even though it's technically a mini-series, because each issue, although it advances the storyline, does so slowly and with plenty of one-and-done goodness that people raised in the MTV-short-attention-span-1980s crave. Atomika goes east in this issue to fight Baba Yaga, and although he defeats her, he gets an unexpected gift from the battle that may bode ill for him in the future. We're up to 1980 now, so the alternate history of the USSR is coming to the present day, and I wonder if it too will fall short of its global goal. Atomika continues to be interesting because of its uncompromising look at our gods and what we do to create them and maintain them. It doesn't matter that these are Communist or Russian icons - the principle is the same in every culture. Atomika feels that he is growing irrelevant in the modern world, and with the end of this issue, he may have regained his focus. It's a fascinating read, and you might want to pick up the trade paperback of the first six issues when it comes out (which will be soon). Plus, the art is gorgeous.

Catwoman #51 by Will Pfeifer and Pete Woods
$2.50, DC
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I mentioned this last issue - I really want to like Catwoman. I really do. The art is spectacular, Pfeifer has a nice handle on the characters, both the creators seem like swell guys - I want to support it. There just continues to be something missing. It don't got no zazzz!

Take this issue. Selina breaks into Wayne Manor to have a chat with Bruce about what she learned last issue. They both say all the things you would expect. Nothing really shocking or new there. Meanwhile, Black Mask kidnaps someone and tortures them. We're supposed to believe it's Holly, but really, no one's buying that. Could it be Slam Bradley, who is back in town? You think? Catwoman and Bradley's son end up crashing Roman's party (separately) and Selina learns his identity. The whole issue is just kind of ... there.

The nice thing is, next issue is the last one before the whole OYL thing. So I can buy it, see what happens, and decide then. I do not have high hopes.

Daredevil #81 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
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Um, is that it?

Don't get me wrong. I like that Bendis didn't feel the need to end his long and mostly excellent run with some apocalyptic issue that left nothing for Brubaker to work with. This feels like an old-school ending to someone's work on a title, where he just leaves with little fuss, as if in the middle of a story. Well, that's all well and good, but did it have to be such a weak issue? I mean, for the past few issues Bendis has been treading water, but this was just dumb. This almost makes me angry about the whole run. Matt goes to jail. Wilson Fisk gets arrested. That's all that happens. We don't see Urich, we don't see Milla (except in a stupid fantasy sequence in the middle), we don't much of Foggy - I just don't get it. Am I missing something? Is this much more subtle than my poor, Dr. Pepper-addled brain can see? I'm starting to think Bendis should have left the book when he had Matt go all "Kingpin" on Hell's Kitchen. Sigh. Occasionally I'll re-read Jinx. Bendis is a good writer, right? That's a good book. What the hell is he doing these days? I guess I'll see what Brubaker and Lark bring to the table. I know the art will be pretty.

Fallen Angel #2 by Peter David and J.K. Woodward
$3.99, IDW
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I can understand why people don't read Fallen Angel or Peter David's work in general. He can be too clever for his own good (of course, so can this guy, but no one holds that against him) and he is enamored with long, meandering stories that test your patience. However, part of the reason I like him is because of those long stories - he makes each chapter of the story just fascinating enough that you want to come back, and usually the pay-off is well worth the wait. That's how it was for the first 18 issues of the DC series (the last two were okay, but not great), and that's how it appears to be now that the title has moved to IDW. Juris wants to kill Lee because she had her son and didn't tell him. Black Mariah shows up and we find out that she and Lee have buried the hatchet - but then we find out that Mariah is not all that she seems. Jubal, who thought he was Juris' firstborn, is a bit peeved about being pushed aside. And Jude shows up in Bete Noire looking for his mother. It's all very operatic.

David manages to keep all these balls in the air while still adding the tense showdown in the bar between Lee, who is very drunk and doesn't quite know what's going on, and Juris, who is quite pissed off and gets more so when Lee doesn't know what's going on. This remains a very interesting book and one that is worth the patience you approach it with.

Gødland #7 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
$2.95, Image
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Ah, Gødland. Whenever I'm cranky about, say, a comic about incest and rape, I can always turn to Gødland to chase the blues away. The trade paperback of the first six issues came out yesterday, too, so do yourself a favor and pick it up. Would it really kill you?

Now, with issue #7, Adam begins to explore his abilities a little more, with the help of his big puppy friend Maxim, who instructs him how to stop a weird invasion from outer space. It's all very, well, you know, cosmic, and just when we think the nostalgia is too thick, Casey reminds us that we are living in a cynical age - not enough to depress us, but enough to make sure we remember that Adam has to deal with things that even Peter Parker at his most hated didn't. Meanwhile, the subplot with Discordia and her accident (I still won't give it away) continues to simmer, as Friedrich Nickelhead gets involved. It's not to difficult to imagine what he plans to do, since he's been carrying around Basil Cronus' head for a few issues, but we'll see. As usual with the best stuff, the glory of the book is in the details - who knew Basil got choked up at the end of Field of Dreams? Such a fun book. Go read it. Put down that Bendis monstrosity with Spider-Woman on the cover and read this!

Local #3 by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
$2.99, Oni Press
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And then there's Local. I'm torn.

On the one hand, I like the stories. They are little slices of life, and I'm not terribly sure if the presence of Megan in all of them (which is kind of annoying) is supposed to tie them all together somehow, or if they are completely independent of each other. I suppose we'll find out at the end. This issue, about what band members do after the band breaks up, is pretty nice. It's a quiet look at people getting on with their lives and how they handle it. Nothing wrong with it.

On the other hand, there's something missing. I can't put my finger on it. I'm trying to, but I can't. The series doesn't excite me like it should. Am I being too opaque? I guess I could be, but there's just something missing. I read it, I appreciate the skill, I appreciate the art (although am I the only one who has noticed that everyone looks exactly the same?), I appreciate the message - but I'm not blown away. It's bugging me. Is Local like Allen Ginsberg? You know, we should all appreciate it, but no one really likes it? I don't know.

Nextwave #1 by Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.99, Marvel
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Isn't that cute? Warren can have some fun if he wants to!

And this comic is fun. Oh sure, I've mentioned before that every male Ellis writes is Spider Jerusalem and every female is Jenny Sparks, but the point about that is - if you drop those archetypes into a Marvel superhero comic, it's kind of fun. That's why The Captain telling Captain America his "real" name (I presume it's a naughty word beginning with "f" and ending with "uck" - and no, not "firetruck") and ending up in a dumpster with a bar of soap shoved in his mouth is funny. That's why Boom-Boom yelling "They all sucked!" about her codenames is funny, even though this characterization of Tabitha doesn't necessarily jive with the other ones. Who cares, right? These are bottom-barrel Marvel characters anyway, and if Ellis pisses off the "Boom-Boom Fan Club," tough shit.

As I said, this is a fun comic. Fin Fang Foom shows up, so you know it's fun. Everyone comments on the fact that he's wearing purple underpants, too, so you know it's fun. The concept of the book - that an organization called H.A.T.E. - Highest Anti-Terror Effort - is fighting terrorists but is really controlled by bad guys, so its top agents need to go rogue - is certainly fun. Dirk Anger, the director of H.A.T.E., is better at being Nick Fury than Fury himself. He gets the best line: "The cook serves me an entire animal and I fight it bare-handed and tear off what I want and eat it and have the rest buried." Beat. "In New Jersey!" Oh, the horror!

Now this is fun stuff. And it certainly won't kill you to buy the first issue. If you don't, the terrorists win.

Spider-Man and the Black Cat: The Evil That Men Do #1-6 by Kevin Smith and Terry and Rachel Dodson
$2.99, Marvel
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Rape Is Bad.

That is all we get from six issues. Hey, guess what? Rape is bad. And guess what? Incestuous rape is even worse.

Blech. Rape as a plot point is a delicate issue, and it has to be handled carefully. In this series, it is not handled carefully. All Smith wants to do with this entire series is tell us that rape is bad. If we didn't already know that, we're not going to learn it from a comic book. This is a completely misguided series, because this is the kind of thing that should not be done in a mainstream superhero title. Yes, I'm belittling mainstream superhero comics. "Come on, Greg!" the masses cry. "Comics are a serious art form." Well, sure. But mainstream superhero books aren't really the place for them to be serious. By their very nature, they aren't really that serious. At any point, Peter Parker dressed as a spider could show up, and then everything gets goofy (and I love Spider-Man, by the way). This is fine for the most part - superhero comics can address plenty of "real-world" issues, including rape - but as I pointed out, it has to be handled well. It's not here. Blech.

Finally, if any writer brings Joey Q. or any other Marvel editor any story involving a woman on the Queensboro Bridge ever again, Joey Q. should go at that writer with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers. Dear Lord, spare us from that crap! Please!!!

Oh well. This is just a dull, ugly, nasty, pointless exercise in giving a fun character a stupid motivation. Did no one learn anything from Identity Crisis?

Oh. I liked the ending. The very end, that is. We'll see if anything comes of it.

The Surrogates #4 (of 5) by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele
$2.95, Top Shelf
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So I didn't read it because it's the middle of a mini-series. You should still buy it, though. It's been good so far, so why would it go in the tank now? WHY?

Next issue I'll tell you about the whole series and why it's good. Trust me.

X-Men #181 by Peter Milligan, Roger Cruz, and Victor Olazaba with Don Hillsman III
$2.50, Marvel
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This was the first Milligan X-Men issue that I was really disappointed with. He's had some weaker ones, but this one bugged me pretty much from start to finish. First, the art. I mentioned last time that Cruz has gotten better since his mid-1990s heyday of hackery. Well, in this issue he reverts to that. Seriously. This looks like something from 1995, and that ain't good, let me tell you.

But I can live with it. He's only a fill-in, after all. What disappointed me was the big reveal of Doop, which is what Lorna saw in outer space. I'm not entirely sure, but I would think that since he and Logan hung out for a while, Alex might know who he is. Maybe not. The whole thing with Lorna understanding him and Alex not and Doop reacting unfavorably to Alex using his powers is a bit weird. I know, it's Milligan, so it's supposed to be, but it's not weird in a good way. Then we have Apocalypse. Gawd, I hate Apocalypse. If I'm a reasonably intelligent writer of the X-Men (that time will come soon, I swear!), I'm not sitting around thinking, "Wow, Apocalypse is cool - let's use him!" Was this forced on Milligan by the editors? I'd like to think so. What would have been really cool is if Apocalypse woke up, but was one of the mutants without powers. That would have been interesting. Anyway, the Leper Queen gets involved with Alex and Lorna, and bad things happen with her. She's an interesting character, but I wonder if she'll be disappointing when we actually find out her whole story. Milligan does well with these off-kilter characters, though, so I have hope for her. And Mystique returns to the mansion with her stud bull for Rogue. That scene is the worst part of the issue. It's just dumb. Remy standing around shouting, Scott being stupid (does he have any other characteristics?), and Mystique admitting to all that she wants this guy (Augustus, his name is) to hook up with Rogue - yeah, that's a good way to get her to on your side! Just dumb.

So. I guess I'm a sucker. I will think long and hard about continuing with my purchase of this title. One issue shouldn't kill it, but I just have a feeling this book is not going the way of quality comic literature. Larroca's back next month, and I'll take a look. I want to like this. I really do. That's the theme of this week's purchases - books I want to like but can't bring myself to. Oh, the travails of a comic-book-buying nerd!

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Anonymous kag said...

I'm liking Local. Decent fake-out on "where's Megan?": I thought she'd be the reporter doing the phone interview. My one problem with this issue is that all four band members moved back to Richmond. Wouldn't at least one of them want to stay in Europe?

As to Nextwave, I think Ellis got tired of people accusing him of self-parody, so decided to actually do it. All five leads wear trenchcoats?

1/26/2006 05:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Darth Krzysztof said...

I completely agree that powerless Apocalypse would have been a LOT more interesting. Mostly he should have stayed dead, but "dead is dead" -is- dead, especially in the X-world.

I was pretty fond of the character when he first came along, but I can't imagine how they intend to add anything new to the stories (or, to be more accurate, the same story over and over) that we've already read.

Same for Selene. That's a character who could be compelling with a little cold humanity splashed in her face.

Of course, I'm still waiting to see what Magneto's going to do now, unless they covered that in one of the dozens of X-books I'm not reading. "I'm not made of money! Leave me alone!"

1/27/2006 01:33:00 AM  
Blogger Apodaca said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that the "return of Apocalypse" was an editorial mandate.

1/27/2006 03:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Prof. Fury said...

In which I describe what it is that might be bothering you about Local:

1/27/2006 09:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike Loughlin said...

I completely agree with you on the quality of Spider-Man/Black Cat, and its "rape is bad" point being a big "well, duh." I thought Kevin Smith had more in mind, but no, the series ended with an extended flashback, hackneyed Spider-Man moment, and piss-poor fight scene. I really liked Smith's Daredevil & Clerks comics, but everything he's written since has disappointed me.

1/27/2006 02:01:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Prof. Fury (may I call you Doctor?), you may have hit the nail on the head. That's not all that bugs me about Local, but it's a big part of it. Good call. The idea of locale should be a much bigger part of the series, and it's not.

1/27/2006 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Randy N said...

Well, Spidey was molested once too..

1/27/2006 05:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My X-Men continuity isn't the greatest, but was Alex maybe in a coma while Doop was super famous?

1/27/2006 09:19:00 PM  

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