Friday, January 06, 2006

What I bought - 5 January 2006

It's a new year! Have I learned to curtail my spending habits? Of course not! I will, though - I'm slowly cutting my pull list, because let's face it, an annual culling is a good thing. No, I'm not going over to the Dark Side and converting to trades. Begone, foul trade paperback demons! You have no hold over me!

Where was I? Oh, yes, new comics. Good stuff this week, but also a disappointing new title, and another book I bought but will continue to warn you against! It's all part of my public service to you, the discriminating reader.

Batman & the Monster Men #3 by Matt Wagner
$2.99, DC
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Ah, Matt Wagner. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways:
1. The art. Simple, yet classic. People who look different and real, the intimidating presence of Batman, the cool, reserved wealth of Bruce Wayne. Wagner is one of those rare artists who can draw wealth without seeming ostentatious.
2. The story. Batman spouting ridiculous dialogue to Sal Maroni without a hint or irony - "The only rest for your kind, Maroni, is on the flat end of a slab, or the deep end of the grave!" Why is this better than ASSBAR (Miller and Lee's thing, coined in the comments section of this post - and yes, I know the acronym doesn't exactly work, but it's funnier this way)? Doesn't Miller put ridiculous dialogue in Batman's mouth and expect us to dig it? Yes, but Wagner is a better writer than Miller (I know, sacrilege, but I'll type it again if you didn't read it correctly the first time), and here, it's done for a purpose other than scaring a little kid and Batman (and more importantly, the reader) knows it's ridiculous without having an inner monologue bludgeoning everyone over the head with how ridiculous it is. It's all a question of tone, people! Anyway, there is also Batman actually (sort of) doing some detective work, a nice tip of the hat to the old-school setting of Batman in New York (Hugo Strange's license plate reads "Empire State"), a nice scene between Bruce and Julie Madison, and lots of threads coming together. I forgot to mention in the last few issues that we even have an Indian assistant to Dr. Strange, just like in the original story. At least he's called Sanjay and they don't call him a Cossack, like they did in the politically incorrect 1930s. Another nice hat tip to the past. This is a very nice book.

Down #3 by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner
$2.99, Image/Top Cow
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Brian mentioned something about Tony Harris doing the art on this, but he didn't. Well, he did the first issue, but since then it's been Hamner. The art is fine - Hamner is a perfectly serviceable artist. Next issue is the last one of this mini-series, and it's nothing you should kill your puppy to get. It's fine, but it's middle-of-the-road Ellis and will probably be relegated to that place where all middle-of-the-road Ellis goes, there to reside with Reload and Mek and Tokyo Storm Warning. Nothing bad, but nothing spectacular either. Deanna gets in to see Nick, who gives her assignment. If you think it has something to do with killing a bunch of people, you obviously know your Ellis. The interesting thing is the ending. Of course Deanna was going to face a choice about crossing the line, and she does. It's in an interesting situation, and sets up the final issue nicely. Even so, this is just okay.

The Exterminators #1 by Simon Oliver and Tony Moore
$2.99, DC/Vertigo
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I was very disappointed with The Exterminators. I had high hopes for it, and there's nothing really that awful about it, but it's just not that interesting. I don't really care about mutant cockroaches or depraved exterminators or even Zen Buddhist cowboy exterminators. I don't need a full-page shot of Henry ripping a raccoon's guts out. There is some interesting stuff here - the idea that the mutant roaches are multiplying in the poor sections of town because no one cares if they do is interesting, but overall, this is just a dull and nasty book. In it we have three men propositioning a tenant so that she can get rid of the bugs in her apartment, an exterminator tasting the remains of a mouse, that same exterminator pinning a rat to a wall with a Rambo knife, the aforementioned raccoon disembowelment, the landlord (one of the aforementioned propositioning men) having sex and sticking his hairy ass in the air, and the aforementioned exterminator shooting up with roach poison. It's an unpleasant book. Maybe it's meant to be, but I don't have to like it. And I don't. So there!

Gødland #6 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
$2.95, Image
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And then there's Gødland. Great, glorious, gargantuan, gregarious, goofy Gødland. This is on my short list for best title out there right now, and like most titles I love unabashedly, it's tough to tell you about it because it's just so freakin' excellent. Would I lie to you? Discordia goes on trial, and of course it's a circus. Something interesting happens to her when the verdict comes down, too. Meanwhile, Neela still wants to go into space, and finds the means to do so, while Adam learns more about Iboga and his destiny, and it promises more cosmic craziness. I really can't say enough about the awesomeness of this comic. Just a few choice moments: on the first page, a guy in his underwear gets angry because the coverage of the trial is pre-empting "My Name Is Earl." I'm with you, Underwear Guy - how dare they! Friedrich Nickelhead and Basil Cronus are still hanging around, but Basil is not enjoying life as a paper weight on Nickelhead's end table. Hilarity ensues! Finally, Doctor Doom - I mean The Tormentor - shows up (in Luxembourg, of all places, although I've been to Luxembourg, and I don't think the mountains are that high there), with his legion of, well, costumed rats. Seriously. Some of them are dressed like a superhero, others in business suits. W. T. F.?

Glorious. More fun than should we should be allowed to have while reading comics. The trade paperback should be out this month, so seek it out. Seek!

Hard Time #2 by Steve Gerber, Mary Skrenes, Brian Hurtt, and Steve Bird
$2.50, DC
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Another interesting issue, as Ethan gets into trouble with the inmates who may or may not have something to do with the murder last issue, and learns a lot about prison economics. This is the most fascinating part of the issue, because in most prison movies, the economic system is already in place and everyone understands it. In this, Ethan does not understand it, so it is explained to him (and us). He tries to take advantage of it, but finds that there is always someone who can make a better offer. Why the person who makes the better offer wants harm to come to Ethan is left unexplained. It's a nice little mystery. Ethan uses his power again (which I didn't know was invisible - does he even know about it? Help me out, loyal readers of the first volume!) and a nasty serial killer shows up at the prison. Good stuff.

The nice thing about Hard Time is that it has drawn me right in. Two issues into it and I'm already immersed in this world and I want to know more. I'm still looking for the trades of the first 12 issues, and I'm looking forward to this series continuing. Of course, it will probably get cancelled soon enough, but it's nice to have it around for now.

Jonah Hex #3 by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Luke Ross
$2.99, DC
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Gaaaakk! Another. One. Issue. Story. Can we stand the brevity of it all?

The cool thing about these one-issue stories, beside the fact that they're good gut-punching tales, is that Hex isn't even slowly building a supporting cast for later, multi-issue epics. It's just him roaming the West dispensing his own brand o' justice. Excellent. I don't know how long they can keep this up, but it's fun to read and makes it easy to pick an issue up and see if you like it.

This one, actually, annoyed me a tad. First, it's a little too Deadwood for me, with the plot lifted from an early episode and even a reference to Yankton. It's a nice tale of revenge, however, and yes, Bat Lash does show up, wearing a flower in his hat and enduring taunts about his manhood. All in all, a decent issue, even if it feels stolen.

My biggest complaint with the issue is its political correctness. Now, I'm as liberal as they come (well, maybe not that liberal, but I'm still a lefty), but I'm getting sick of all the evil in the world comin' from the white man. Back in the day, all Western atrocities were committed by Native Americans, or, as the Duke would call them, "Injuns." Now, we've gone completely the other way. Of course the Indians in this book are "noble." They can kill someone as well as the next one, but they would never attack a wagon train! Plains Indians are people, and they get pissed off as much as the next group. I'm just tired of popular culture portraying them as somehow more noble than the whites. They were just savage in different ways. People suck sometime.

Okay, I'm done. Excoriate me at will!

Marlene by Peter Snejbjerg (translated by Snejbjerg and John Tomlinson)
$3.95, SLG
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Snejbjerg's probably best known for his work on the second half of Robinson's Starman run or The Light Brigade, which is finally being collected in trade (go buy it!). This is a Danish work from 1998 that he translated for us, the ignorant English reading public. Be warned: it's weird.

It's the story of a model named Marlene who has an unfortunate effect on all men - she turns them into drooling idiots. Even Michael Joergensen, the detective assigned to investigate the murder of Marlene's stalker, falls under her spell. Meanwhile, there's that pesky murder, and another one occurs too, so is Marlene killing these ogling men, or is someone after her? And what's up with the artist who only paints Marlene? What's up with him, I say?

This is an interesting book. It's certainly fine reading, even though it feels a bit rushed. Joergensen is a bit of a cliché, but Marlene is very well developed as a character. It's by turns creepy, funny, exciting, and spooky. Snejbjerg's art has developed over the years, and his writing isn't bad. Interesting use of your four dollars.

Of course, it's European. You know what that means. Lots of nudity, both female and male. Lots. Of. Nudity. Not for the prudish. You have been warned!

Did I mention there was a lot of nudity?

Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #2 by That Guy! and Doug Manhke
$2.99, DC
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Frankenstein on Mars. Hee hee.

Supreme Power: Nighthawk #5 by Daniel Way and Steve Dillon
$2.99, Marvel
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I told you last month to ignore this title. Don't buy it! Seriously. I hope you listened. This issue is a smidgen better, if only because Way attempts to get to the heart of the Batman/Joker relationship in a way that DC will not allow. But then it goes back to being nasty, cruel, misogynistic, and awful. Why am I reading it? I am a comic book martyr, for you, good readers. I read lousy books so you don't have to. Please avoid this. Like the plague, I tell ya!

Team Zero #2 by Chuck Dixon, Doug Mahnke, and Sandra Hope
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm
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See, this is what the scourge of the six-issue trade paperback hath wrought. There is no earthly reason why this issue could not have taken five pages, MAX! All it does is bring Deathblow's team together for the mission to Peenemunde. Yes, we get to see them do their specialties, but I imagine we'll see them do those sorts of things on the mission itself, or else why bother? At the end, Deathblow says, "Nothing to prove here, ladies. You wouldn't be here if you weren't all hardasses." But why did we have to see each and every one of them being a hardass? Again, presumably they're going to have to be hardasses on the mission. This is just an excuse to pad the story to six issues. Gaaaaahhhh!

Sigh. I like the art, I like the moments in the story, but it's pointless. Do DC and Marvel want us to stop buying monthlies? Is that what they want? Stupid. Just give us a team and move on. I compared this to Where Eagles Dare last month. We didn't need to see Clint performing some mission all hardassily. Clint just shows up and you know Nazi asses will be kicked! And then he goes out and does it! That's what should have happened here. Apparently the ass-kicking will begin next issue. I can be patient, I suppose.

And, to make matters worse, no hot nurses this issue. Sigh.

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Blogger Mark said...

re: Jonah Hex:

"I'm just tired of popular culture portraying them as somehow more noble than the whites. They were just savage in different ways."

Well, they did scalp the guy. Regardless of the justification, there's nothing noble about cutting off the top of somebody's head.

1/06/2006 04:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

about jonah hex, if the time period is 1865-1885, it's more accurate to show things like the comic does.
By this point, through treaty (and lack of resources on the part of Natives), the tribes were all being forced into Reservations--culminating in most of the plains Reservations being put into Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

The 'Indian Wars' of the 1870s-1880s were largely between the undermanned U.S. Cavalry and a few Great Plains tribes--and mostly over treaty enforcement (ie, getting natives of different tribes to abide by the Reservation orders).

Most of the aggression came first from the Cavalry on the natives. It might be uncomfortable and contrary to the fictions we like, but it's more accurate. The attacks that post-Civil War settlers feared came from isolated stories out of pre-Civil War Western expansion.

This all, of course, depended on which territory people were travelling, and which trail. For example, on the Oregon Trail of that time, there were no cases of Indian attacks on settlers. The most likely cause of death (if it was by firearm), came from settlers either shooting each other in a dispute, or the accidental discharge of a weapon going over a bump.

Unlike, say, Imperial Stormtroopers, the Native tribes were and are actual peoples. It's not politically correct, it's historically accurate.

1/06/2006 05:19:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Ah, I knew I might stir up a hornet's nest with that! True, Mark, they did scalp the guy (I was trying to keep it a secret, you know!), but he deserved it. The implication is that they would never attack a poor ol' wagon train.

Good stuff, Anonymous, and I am much more likely to buy the whites attacking Indians instead of the other way around, but there are plenty of instances where Indians attacked first. I didn't necessarily want that in this story - Gray and Palmiotti are telling a story, after all, and shouldn't include all permutations of what could happen - it just seems like these days, the default is to go with "evil" whites and "good" Indians. All I'm saying is that Indians could be just as nasty as white people. Just a small matter - it didn't bug me all that much, just a little.

1/06/2006 05:54:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

Judging from the great Showcase Jonah Hex phone book, they got a lottttttt of mileage out of done-in-one Hex + bad guys = death stories back in the day, so it's kind of cool to see the new series continue in that venerable path rather than making each tale a 6-part saga (#1. Hex squints. #2. Hex sees bad get done. #3. Hex starts to hunt bad guys. #4. Still hunting. Etc....) Anyway, I'm liking the new series. Refreshing.

1/06/2006 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger AFKAP of Darkness said...

oops... accidentally deleted my comment the first time!

anyway... i bought more or less the same titles that you did ("less" being that i had to heed your prior admonitions and skip Supreme Power: Nighthawk and i refuse to read anything Chuck Dixon writes, so no Team Zero for me either).

i pretty much agree with all your analyses, especially Hard Time (which i love) and The Exterminators (which i'm giving one... okay, TWO more issues to really impress me).

1/06/2006 07:51:00 PM  
Blogger craig-d-taylor said...

Yep. Hard Time is excellent, I agree.

I think that Ethan is aware of his power, but has not really acknowledged it as a 'power'. The original premise of the DC Focus line was that ordinary people gained powers in a world without super-heroes. So Superman hasn't arrived to show Ethan how to use his powers, and Zatanna hasn't mindwiped him or such, so he largely has to work it out on his own. Most of the time his 'power' manifests after he has fainted, so he wakes up with only a vague 'something happened'.

Out of the original 12 issues only the first six have been collected in the 50 to life Trade. At the end of what was the sixth issue, Ethan was sent to solitary and, while conscious, sort of projected the spirit creature out. A perfect ending for the trade collection, it made the point that while Ethan's body may have been caged, a part of him was free. In the course of those first six issues the 'spirit' became more aware, but still Hard Time has drawn me in, too, with its mysteries.

I cannot remember, offhand, what the name of this creature is. One of the characters Lewis (introduced in the second issue of the trade), may have named it. He was able to see it, and thought it to be an angel, which had forgiven him for his crime.

I agree, too with your comments on Supreme Power: Nighthawk. I bought the first two issues and felt they could have been condensed into one. Unlike you I purged it from pull list. The problem I think, with the Supreme Power/Squadron Supreme is that it has dragged on. The first twelve issues were great (collected in hardcover a few months ago), but the series has dragged since. The two mini-series, almost completed, really drove me away, and I won't be checking in to the new Marvel Knights series.

1/06/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I thought Nighthawk was cruel, misogynistic, and mean-spirited right after I saw how the gay nurse of course is a total slut and gets killed for his flaunting of two societal taboos.

Completely unnecessary.

ASBAR finally killed itself for me. #1 annoyed me with gratuitous ass-shots. #2 was slightly better and amusing if read as broad farce. #3 was more TnA, two seques that made no sense and no plot movement (and more crappy, over the top dialogue).

1/07/2006 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Luke said...

Hard Time and Ethan's 'power':

Ethan does know he has the power, and in the second half of the original run met an inmate most consider insane who is interested in the occult. This guy can either see or sense it some other way, but he knows it's there.

It's been called something I can't remember, but it's not a superhero/villain type name, more a name the people who first made them gave it. The only thing Lewis (the crazy, murderous born again) ever called it was 'an angel'. He thought it had come to forgive him.

It seems that Ethan is descended from some uber-priestess of some ancient race that was wiped out by their enemies. His ability is from that bloodline.

Ethan cannot see the spirit, but at this point he can control it. Normal people can't see it and it is intangible when it wants to be. He has used it to save a life by catching someone doing a suicide jump off a building. She was able to see it when it caught her.

I don't know if there are any flashbacks showing the original spirit, but when it was uncontrolled it was a jaggedly drawn red thing, now it's a more fluid and blue in color. It's also faster and probably stronger.

So apparently, those that are insane and predisposed can see it, as well as the psychically aware.


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