Thursday, March 02, 2006

What I bought - 1 March 2006

No pretty pictures today. My computer went pear-shaped (to quote Warren Ellis) last week (I turned it on and got the dreaded Blue Screen Of Death!) and we're just now trying to re-install everything, including the scanner. So it's just my words. You'll live.

Batman: Secrets #1 (of 5) by Sam Kieth
$2.99, DC

Lots of Batman books this week (okay, three), but this is the best of the bunch (I didn't read the annual, admittedly, but I can't imagine it's better than this). Even if you don't like the story (I'll get to that), Kieth's art is absolutely stunning. I've always been a fan of his, but he's one of those artists who continues to get better. This is a true feast for the eyes, and you can't always say that about comic books. Kieth has that cartoony style that makes his Joker goofy and scary all at once, but he can handle the more disturbing scenes, like Bruce Wayne showing up at home covered in blood, as well. Truly magnificent.

Kieth writes the story, too, and while he's a pretty good writer, a few things bug me about this. It's certainly a decent premise - that we all have secrets, and the Joker is more than happy to spill them - but some things feel too familiar. Kieth gives Bruce Wayne yet another childhood friend with something to hide, and another bad thing happens to Young Bruce that seems to indicate (along with all the other bad things that have happened to Young Bruce) that even if his parents hadn't died, he would have been one messed-up individual. The interlude, where Batman and the Joker are trapped together someplace dark, is intriguing, and I'm always a sucker for stories told out of sequence (even though they make my brain hurt). The main story, however, bugs me just a bit.

Like the Joker getting out on parole. The Joker is like Charles Manson - he's never getting out on parole. I'm sorry, it's just silly. I know I need to suspend my disbelief, and maybe we'll find out something more about how the Joker got released, but it made me shake my head. The Joker's book deal is more believable, but parole? No. The big fight between Batman and the Joker, which is the core of the book as it spurs the plot into motion, is pretty good, but I was a bit puzzled when exactly Batman held the gun to the Joker's face and looked like he was going to kill him. The girl is taking pictures of the fight, Batman is hanging onto a dangling Joker, and then suddenly, we see the series of pictures that have Bats holding the Joker around the neck with a gun on him. I'm not faulting the idea, I just wanted to see the transition.

It's a minor quibble, though - this is a beautiful book, and looks very interesting. Next issue will go in my pile of "mini-series I bought but did not read," and I'll check back with you in a few months when this sucker wraps up. But you should still buy it.

Detective Comics #817 by James Robinson, Leonard Kirk, and Andy Clarke
$2.50, DC

If One Year Later means we get books as intriguing and well done as this, then I'm all for it. Robinson's return to comics was the hook for me, but he delivers the first part of a very interesting tale of Gotham City, a year after Batman disappeared. There's just a ridiculous amount of things to like in this book. The death of the KGBeast certainly gets things off to a fine start. The Beast was once a fine villain, and dispatching him gets us off on a mysterious foot, one that will, we hope, be pursued throughout this story (was it really Harvey Dent who killed him?). The fact that Gotham City is a safe place now subtly brings up whether Batman is necessary at all (I'm sure we'll be told he is, but at least someone hinted he might not be). The return of Harvey Bullock is almost as welcome as that of Batman. Gordon's return I'm less comfortable with, simply because I always liked the fact that he had health problems and also that he refused to play politics, but he's a good character, so I'll let it slide. Finally, the fact that Batman doesn't simply disappear from the rooftop, but allows Gordon to see him leave. It's little stuff like this that indicate it's a whole new world, even though Batman is still dark and scary. Robinson has always been excellent at establishing relationships between characters, and he does a great job here. I'm really looking forward to this story, and the hints that they drop about the "missing year" make me interested in reading 52 as well. Damn you, DC!

Elsinore #4 (of 9) by Kenneth Lillie-Paetz and a bunch of artists
$3.25, Devil's Due

I just noticed something. On the inside cover of this book, where all the legal boilerplate is, it says: "DRAGONLANCE: CHRONICLES comic book, Issue 7." ????? This is certainly not Dragonlance: Chronicles. Weird.

Anyway, after a long delay and a change in publisher, this wacky series continues with an issue sort of designed to get you up to speed with the almost incomprehensible story. As it is a limited series and DDP seems to be on firm financial footing (unlike Elsinore's last publisher, Alias), I would wait for the trade on this one. It's very cool and very wild, but it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense in serial installments. It's going in my mini-series pile, and I hope I can read the whole thing before the year is done. The only reason I read this issue was to kind of re-affirm if I wanted to buy it. I do (even though the original artist, Brian Denham, is leaving the series), but I want to read it all at once. I'll keep my eye out for the trade and let you know when it's coming out.

Ex Machina #18 by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

As usual, I have little to say about this excellent series. But I'll try. In the aftermath of the attack on the protesters last issue, Mitchell tries to figure out who could have done it. He speculates about his former foes or Arab terrorists, none of which makes much sense. The story barely moves along, as Vaughan uses this issue to show us, once again, the fascinating world of politics in New York. The FBI is arguing with the police department over who has jurisdiction. Mitchell himself is trying to work something out with a political opponent over banning car alarms in the city. We get both sides of the story about the Iraqi invasion, another nice thing about this book. And we get retribution against the city's "Muslim Arab" community - I say that because the person upon whom the people take their revenge is neither Muslim nor Arab, but this is another thing that Vaughan likes to do with this book - point out the indiscriminate brutality that people can, and often do, exercise. Just another brilliant slice of comic book heaven, topped off by the astonishing art of Tony Harris, who apparently has sped up a bit in the past decade, because this is 18 issues in a row that he's penciled (and yes, I know the "official" title is going on hiatus while Vaughan does a two-parter with Chris Sprouse - not really a step down at all, if you ask me). Good stuff all around.

Fallen Angel #3 by Peter David and J.K. Woodward
$3.99, IDW

David has certainly picked up the pace on this title, as the revelations about Lee continue, and we find out what drove her to "fall" in the first place (well, I'm going to assume that's what drove her to it, as I can't imagine any other event doing it). The thing about it is, some people might object to the arbitrary brutality of it, but I don't. As usual with horrible things occurring in comics (or any sort of fiction) - it's all about context. David is telling a mature story that deals with these sorts of themes, and the horrible event (which is telegraphed far in advance, but I'm still not spoiling it) is not gratuitous, but something that has a profound impact and far-reaching consequences. Yes, it's unsettling, but it's part of the story, and I'm willing to let it pass, because it's supposed to be unsettling.

As for the rest of the book - Jude has a chat with his father, and Lee shows up to tell him to leave Bete Noire or she'll kill him. Not much of a choice, is it? Despite all the plot-heavy stuff in these first three issues, David is a good enough writer that he is laying the groundwork for a Cain-and-Abel type showdown between Jude and Jubal, not to mention Malachi and Mariah's role in Lee's forgiveness (and whether she'll accept it or not). This continues to be an excellent read, and well worth the hefty price tag.

Gødland #8 by Joe Casey and Tom Scioli
$2.99, Image

Speaking of excellent reads, here's another book that is becoming more and more difficult to praise in different ways every month. In the latest opus, Maxim explains to Adam exactly what was promised on the cover: the origin of the universe. Oh, it's wacky, and it leaves Adam a little puddle of weepiness on the floor. In other news, Friedrich Nickelhead's Master Plan moves merrily along, as he delivers a diabolical package to the Tormentor in "Luxembourg" (which I'm still not convinced is actually Luxembourg, especially because the Fed Ex delivery guys speak German). Just for good measure, Casey throws another subplot into the mix, as three dead prison inmates become hosts for ... well, something cosmic. And probably nasty.

I really regret simply praising this comic every month. In some of the books that I really love, I look for things to pick apart, and often I come up empty. This book has joined that pantheon. It's just that good.

Local #4 (of 12) by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
$2.99, Oni Press

This is more like it! The last issue of Local left me feeling vaguely disappointed, but I liked this issue a lot. Maybe I'm just misanthropic, but the tension in this issue between the two brothers (city mouse and country mouse, if you will) is much nicer than the rambling conversations of the broken-up band. I've mentioned this before, and I'll mention it again - I like my stories to have some sort of plot. It doesn't have to be a big plot, but something would be nice. Wood is still failing in one of the basic promises of this series - to show how each story fits into the place in which it occurs - but other than that, the characterization of each person who flits through Megan's life is done well. In this story, two brothers confront each other in a diner in Missoula, Montana, over their father's inheritance, and family dynamics are laid bare in a very nice way. Things like the trucker brother (Jeffrey; the other one doesn't get a name) describe as happening at family gatherings do actually occur, and whether they lead to extreme reactions like the one in this book is up to the individual. It's a nice (if bloody) way to reach a reconciliation of sorts in 20-some pages.

I'm still unsure about Megan's place in these stories. I don't mind it, but if each of these is taking place a year after the previous one, I'd like to know why she's hopping around the country like this. If we accept that she's in her early 20s by now and that's what people in their early 20s do, I can deal with that, but soon she won't be in her early 20s anymore, and then it gets a bit stranger. It's a minor point, however, but one that probably needs to be addressed. As for the sense of place that seems to be lacking in these stories ... next issue, in Halifax, looks like it might deal with the local community a bit more. We'll see. Meanwhile, this continues to be an interesting read.

Nextwave #2 by Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.99, Marvel

The glorious thing about Nextwave (which, Brian's source-less revision notwithstanding, is one word on the inside boilerplate and therefore shall remain one word) is not the somewhat sophomoric humor (the bit with Fin Fang Foom's pants was less humorous this time around, but the tag line on the cover: "Nextwave gets their lovin' from your mama!" was pretty fun) nor the fact that Ellis has taken his template characters and implanted them in the stolid Marvel U. (although it's certainly charming). What's glorious about Nextwave is the innovative ways Ellis uses his superheroes. The Captain snaps FFF's finger - of course he would! Monica comes up with a way to defeat FFF that involves Machine Man and internal organs - of course it works! Because of this book's "parental advisory" label and its heroes D-list status, Ellis can do wild crap that superheroes would do if they weren't too busy trying to appeal to little kids. The patented Ellis dialogue is there (I love how everyone on the team is already sick of Monica saying she used to run the Avengers) and the ultra-violence is fun, but the way in which these heroes deal with the UWMD (Unusual Weapons of Mass Destruction) should remain the key to this series.

And we inexplicably feel bad for FFF. Probably because he's a dragon, and this is what he does. Why are these tiny people trying to kill him?

X-Factor #4 by Peter David, Ryan Sook, Dennis Calero, and Wade von Grawbadger
$2.99, Marvel

I know Sook's pencils were part of the draw of this series, but if he's not staying (and apparently he's not), I wish they would just settle on an artist and let him or her do the whole book. It's not that the art styles are so different as to be jarring, it's just annoying. But that's just me.

David wraps up some of his storylines, as Monet solves the Gloria Santiago murder case and Guido and Rahne make a stand against the cops who want to invade Mutant Town. But before we get too comfortable, something bad happens to Siryn. And, of course, we still don't know what's going on with Layla Miller.

I'm going to come out of the closet and say that I dig Monet. I liked her when she was introduced way back when, and I've liked her ever since. I hope David develops her character, because it seems that no writer has really done a good job with her. I could be wrong - I skipped a huge chunk of Generation X in the middle of the run, because it sucked (despite Jay Faerber's contribution), so maybe she's better developed than I know, but I doubt it, because she still seems to be a tabula rasa here, and David, no matter what you think of him, does his research. I love how she is unfazed by the corpse on the floor of the X-Factor headquarters, and doesn't see that it's necessary to mention it to Jamie. I like how she flies by the riot because Jamie told her to get to the police station right away. And I like how she breaks down a little before telling Jamie she'll rip him in half if he ever tells anyone. As with a lot of Marvel's mutant characters, she has plenty of room for development, and I hope this series lasts long enough for David to give it to us. There. My testimonial is now over.

This is, in many ways, a typical Peter David series. If you like that, you'll like this. If you don't, you probably won't.

Mini-series I bought but did not read:

Team Zero #4 (of 6) by Chuck Dixon, Doug Mahnke, and Sandra Hope
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

You should buy this. Trust me.

That's all for this week. Funny how I said I was going to cut back on my weekly purchases and then picked up 10 floppies. I resisted Daughters of the Dragon, though! And there may have been some Ad Nauseum Crisis book coming out. But that was probably a rumor.

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Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I just looked at Diamond's shipping list!!

DEC052025 NEXT WAVE #2 $2.99

3/02/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Iron Lungfish said...

Dear god, I flipped through the Jason Todd Annual out of morbid curiosity... was I hallucinating, or was Rucka implying that Superboy brought Robin back to life by punching the air real hard?

Ellis says it's NEXTWAVE, one word! Good enough for me.

3/02/2006 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

The saddest thing about the Annual (and there were a LOT of sad things) was it effectively stated "You know the whole mystery thing we had going? Forget that - it was some nonsensical reason that no one could POSSIBLY have guessed when we first introduced him."

Hey, sorta like Jean Loring bringing a flamethrower to kill Sue Dibney!!

3/02/2006 09:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Dizzy D said...

Good picks, I'm getting Godland, Nextwave, X-factor and Team Zero. I'm thinking about Robinson's Batman, but may wait for trade.

As for M: Greg, trust me on this. Just ignore those Generation X issues. It was a fun series in the beginning and during Jae Faeber, but the other writers.. the least said the better.

3/02/2006 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

As stupid as the reason for Jason Todd being alive was, I don't think it was as bad as Dibny and the flamethrower because unlike ID Crisis it never really seemed like it was about the mystery behind the resurrection so much as the drama that was caused by the resurrection. Think about it, there were not many clues dropped, red herring or genuine. How he came back didn't really seem as important as what happened now that he was back.

And Greg, I disagree strongly about Detective Comics. It was good, but I didn't find it that good. It was a little too self-conscious about it's One year later" gimmick. Bendis did it much better in Daredevil.

3/02/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Oh, sure, T, very few things are gonna rise to the level of Jean Loring bringing a flamethrower (in fact, I think that's a post right there).

But they DID have a bunch of clues as to Jason's return, like the Lazarus Pit residue, the fact that the coffin never had a body in it, the fact that the sensors guarding the coffin never went off (and THAT explanation was a doozy - they didn't go off because they only protect from people digging in, not prople digging out...exactly what kind of freaky sensors ARE these), and a few others I can't think of right now.

3/02/2006 09:41:00 PM  
Blogger T. said...

My bad, I missed the early issues and didn't realize there were clues. In that case, it does enter the realm of Meltzer-Loeb crap-mystery.

3/02/2006 09:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Ron said...

I'm loving NEXTWAVE, but #2 just made me realize that I'd gotten so used to the "decompressed" model from guys like Bendis and what not that I was suffering vertigo from having an entire fight start and finish in a single issue.

3/02/2006 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...


I'm feeling ya, Ron.

3/02/2006 10:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Zard said...

Detective Comics #817 was good. I liked seeing Batman and Robin together (Tim Drake as Robin has been the constant read throughout my time as a comic reader, so I'm a fan), and I liked Robin's new costume.

Batman was nice! He didn't disappear in the middle of Gordon talking. He even shook the guy's hand.

The dynamic between Batman and Robin (maybe I'm reading a lot into this one issue though...) seemed very much in the spirit of classic Batman and Robin. Batman's quieter, not as expressive, while Robin's more light hearted and expressive. The first panel/page with the two of them on the roof: Robin looks happy.

I'm glad that we saw that "Gotham's protector" was, in fact, Harvey Dent. It's seems like the kind of thing many writers would cop out on and make his identity an unnecessary mystery just for the sake of it being a mystery.

Now let's hope this picks up with a bit faster pace and less dwelling on the One Year Later thing. It's too close to comics that have something happen, and then spend the next few issues dwelling on that something and telling the reader how big of a deal that something was. Let's get this sucker moving!

3/02/2006 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

detective was good and all but they ended the issue where they usually start from, so it seemed too short. I read it in a quarter of the time it took me to read one from Laphams' run, i guess it's an 8 issue run but still.

I think the problem with robins costume is that there are no sleeves, if they're basing on bruce timms design, they should of just gone all the way, i miss 10 year old robin though, it doesn't make sense i admit, but batman should just hire them from 10 years old and kick them out before they hit puberty, because teenagers are too angsty, and kids 12 and below who slay henchmen are awesome// as evidenced in the batman animated series.

speaking of sleeves..imagine if robin went emo and got himself a sleeve i smell an elseworlds ---what if Robin was EMO!? (Batman is pretty straight edge though, you gotta admit)

3/03/2006 05:02:00 AM  
Blogger Bastarður Víkinga said...

The funny thing about the annual was that the two major theories were: Alternate Earth Jason and The Lazarus Pit.

And they used both.


3/03/2006 09:45:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Yeah, Bastarður Víkinga, which makes me think that Winick just didn't really have a clear idea in mind, and therefore threw out clues from all over the place, and then, in the Annual, had to make all the disparate clues make sense - and, well, they didn't...hehe.

3/04/2006 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Bastarður Víkinga said...

Well, it's not like he ever pretended to have any answers, really. He said from the start that he didn't really care about *how* Jason came back, just about the resulting drama.

And I'm CBR's Viking Bastard, btw.

3/04/2006 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just thinking about the "One Year Later" thing... with Bendis on Daredevil. The fact that he had Jessica Jones STILL pregnant always makes me chuckle. You can't blame it on "comic book time" when you make a literal year-long jump in the story.

3/09/2006 10:01:00 AM  

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