Thursday, May 11, 2006

What I bought - 10 May 2006

It was a slow week (for me, at least), as only five floppies made it home with me. The rest lay crying on the table, because they knew that only the cool comics get to go home with me! Interestingly enough, three books ended story arcs. Okay, maybe that wasn't that interesting, but in this world of six-issue arcs, it's something.

This week's theme: Comics that disappointed Greg! The only one that didn't was the one I didn't read!

Ex Machina #20 by Brian K. Vaughan, Tony Harris, and Tom Feister
$2.99, DC/Wildstorm

I'm going to spoil the ending, because I think it's important, so if you haven't read this yet and are planning to in the near future, you might want to skip down. Just so you know.

I read this very carefully, after my experience with issue #19, and it was still flimsy. WTF, Wildstorm? Staple your damned books better! Anyway, the war protest story comes to an end, a little strangely. I don't have much of a problem with Vaughan leaving things murky because that's how real life is, but the bad guy seems just a little too vague. Mitchell uses his powers to track him down, and the debate he has with Bradbury about it is interesting reading, but when he finds the guy, it's unsatisfying. The bad guy doesn't tell us anything about why he released the poison gas, and we don't find out, except that it's not about religion. The fact that he's a self-proclaimed atheist bothers me a bit, simply because I wonder if Vaughan did it so he wouldn't be seen as picking on Muslims. I mean, let's face it, as much as I dig Muslims from a historical perspective, the guys who destroyed the World Trade Center called themselves Muslims. The bad guy, Sammir Hallouda, says he's a scientist, and that if Americans keep thinking "this" is about religion, they're going to lose the war on terror. It's just a weird few pages, and like I said, it's not very satisfying.

The ending is what matters in the book, anyway. The terrorist strike was the catalyst, but the reaction of New Yorkers (the murder of Sikhs and other non-Muslim but vaguely swarthy people) and the fate of Journal is what's important in the story. At the end of this issue, Journal dies. It's a shame, because she and Wylie are interesting characters, but why I'm not pissed off about it like I was when certain other female characters died (Robina in Desolation Jones #6) is because of the difference in tone. Journal's death doesn't feel mean-spirited; it's a logical consequence of a terror attack, and it wasn't an attack on Mitchell to make him feel pain. When people go to a protest and poison gas is launched into their midst, people are going to die. That's just the way it is. Journal is a much better character than Robina was, and her death affected me more, but it didn't make me angry, it just made me a bit sad and made me wonder how Mitchell and his staff will deal with it. I'm curious as to how this will play out, unlike in Desolation Jones, where the circumstances of Robina's death just make me want to stop reading. It is, as I wrote, a difference in tone - it feels like Vaughan did agonize a bit over killing off Journal, whereas it felt like Ellis got rid of Robina with just a tiny bit of glee. But that's just my opinion.

As usual, this continues to be a wonderful book, and the events of this issue add a bit more depth to it and open up new stories. I'll be interested to see where Vaughan goes now.

As a bit of an aside, the priest at the end tells Mitchell that he's giving Journal her last rites. "Last rites" is an archaic term that is no longer used in the Catholic church. It's called "anointing of the sick" and has been called such for a long time (since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, maybe). Lay people and people ignorant of Catholicism still call it "last rites," but would a priest really call it that? I know she was dying, but wouldn't he still call it the correct term? Maybe he's just old school. Anyway, a minor nit to pick, but it still bugged me.

Fables #49 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.75, DC/Vertigo

This is another vaguely disappointing issue, because the main storyline doesn't really go anywhere. Mowgli finds Bigby and convinces him to come back to Fabletown, but it's not terribly dramatic. Bigby just makes up his mind, leaves his cabin in the woods and the girl he hooked up with, and they're off. It's surprisingly boring.

The best parts of the issue are the ones setting up the next big story. "The winds are changing" is the big theme, as the North Wind leaves the Farm unexpectedly, strong winds come to the farm, Bigby's girlfriend - Sarah - returns to civilization (and I expect we'll see her again, because if not, what's the point of showing her returning to civilization), Gepetto feels something strange happening ("probably just a change in the winds," he says), and the bodiless pig Colin shows up and tells Snow he's moving on because things are going to get better for her. Well, I don't buy that last bit, because it's drama, after all, but these various portents make the issue interesting even though Mowgli's confrontation with Bigby threatens to bog it down. The idea of Mowgli going after Bigby was certainly an intriguing one and probably needed to be told, but it's weird how dull it actually was.

Anyway, issue #50 is next, so I'm sure feces will hit the fan. This is still a good book, but Willingham has been treading water for a while. I hope he gets it in gear next issue.

She-Hulk #7 by Dan Slott and Will Conrad
$2.99, Marvel

Another hideous cover. And not to be too nit-picky (shut up), but I was under the impression that Jen was NOT a personal injury lawyer. Therefore, if you slip and fall, she's NOT the one to call. I could be wrong, though.

I'm missing Juan Bobillo already. Sigh. It's not that Conrad's art is all that bad, it's just kind of bland. Bobillo brought such weird energy to the book, and I have a feeling that part of its charm is now gone. We'll see what Paul Smith brings to our favorite chick Hulk, and maybe they'll get a regular artist who can make this the kind of nifty book everyone should be reading again.

It's not a bad issue, but as we continue our theme for this week, it's vaguely disappointing. Jennifer inexplicably has not yet realized that Starfox may have used his powers on her when they made the beast with two backs in her Avengers days. How can you not even think it? Slott screws up for us Marvel idiots when he doesn't even give us any hint as to whether Eros can control his powers or not. There's a lot of hinting around about it, but we never get a definitive answer. I'm sure somebody out there with a lot more knowledge than I possess can let me know, but it's that fine line in comics between assuming your readership knows everything because they're hard core fans and telling them way too much and boring them to tears. In this case, I think Slott errs on the side of the former, and I just wish he had let us know if Starfox can or cannot turn his power on and off. Especially as it's a legal case, that's probably a key point.

I'm not really sure what the point of this two-issue story was. I assume Slott wanted to examine sexual harassment and assault in the Marvel U., but this is certainly not the place to do it. There are several interesting scenes in these issues, including when the some Avengers don't want to testify on Starfox's behalf because they're not sure if he's manipulating them or not. This book, with its emphasis on superhero law, could be a place where these issues are thrashed out, but the light tone Slott has in place, plus the quick treatment of the case, makes this an inappropriate story. It just felt too serious to be treated so cavalierly and quickly.

Wolfskin #1 by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp
$3.99, Avatar

Ellis dips his foot into the Avatar pool occasionally, and the results can be gut-wrenching (Scars), entertainingly horrific (the Strange Killings mini-series), or of no interest to me whatsoever (Black Gas - I'm just not into zombies). I didn't have particularly high hopes for Wolfskin, thinking it would be just a nice Conan-esque tale of a barbarian butchering people he doesn't like.

On that front, I'm not disappointed. Our hero (not given a name, and Wolfskin, which I'll call him, is a title) is accosted in the forest by a bunch of guys who attack him, which is of course a bad idea. He slaughters them in particularly gruesome fashion, but is brought up short when their leader, a vaguely Asian-looking fellow, pulls an old-fashioned rifle on him. Wolfskin is appropriately contemptuous of this cowardly weapon, but it allows the Asian dude to chat with him and let him know the situation, which is that he and his brother rule a divided village, and the fact that the one half of the village just lost five good fighters means that the other half will now attack. Wolfskin is honor-bound to defend them, or so the Asian dude says. At the end of the issue, he considers it. Of course he'll fight - what's the point otherwise?

Ryp's art is spectacular and bloody, and is the highlight of the issue. Ellis' story, however, is just simplistic. It's not terribly entertaining, and it drags when the Asian guy explicates the situation. I know it's just a set-up issue, and for a set-up, Ellis follows the Golden Rule of fiction: hook your audiences with excitement (the bloody battle in the woods) and then explain the situation once they're hooked. Okay, it's a perfectly serviceable comic book. But there's no reason to buy it in its single-issue format, because the trade paperback should read much better. I have to pre-order it because my store wouldn't carry it otherwise, so I'm on the hook for the series (or at least the first few issues, which means I'll get the whole thing), but I wouldn't bother if I were you. Unless you come back in a few months and I tell you the collected edition will be worth it. We'll see. At least sympathetic women don't get shot in the head (and yes, I'm not letting that go).

Batman: Secrets #3 (of 5) by Sam Kieth
$2.99, DC

For now, I'm just drooling over the art.

There you have it. No, I did not buy 52, even with The God Of All Comics attached to it. I will continue to resist!

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Anonymous spj said...

Dan Slott's the same one who says there's no way the Punisher's every killed an innocent bystander by accident, right?

5/11/2006 02:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

No, it was the Hulk.

But there was a miniseries actually about the Punisher dealing with the death of a bystander.

As for Desolation Jones, the death of Robina was lazy in the extreme- "I can't feel, la la la, no compassion from me, la la la" "They just shot your innocent driver and potential gothgirl fuckbuddy." "D'OH!!" I haven't read something that punishingly Obvious since Apparat.

5/11/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Jer said...

I was under the impression that Jen was NOT a personal injury lawyer. Therefore, if you slip and fall, she's NOT the one to call. I could be wrong, though.

Aren't lawyers in the Marvel Universe kind of like scientists in the Marvel Universe? I mean, if Hank Pym - an expert in some kind of theoretical physics involving subatomics - can also be a master of robotics engineering and AI, why can't all lawyers do everything too?

5/11/2006 03:38:00 PM  
Anonymous spj said...

From the same post where Slott talks about why the Hulk hasn't killed anybody:

"For example, in the 90's there was only one major Punisher project that did NOT come out of editor Don Daley's office. It was written by a big name creator, and the premise involved the Punisher being haunted by the ghosts of innocent bystanders-- bystanders that HE himself shot down during his war on crime.

Don tried his best to kill the project-- and, in the end, it was done against his will and through another editor. Why? Because Don believed that the Punisher NEVER HAS nor EVER WOULD shoot an innocent bystander-- even by accident.

And that makes a lot of people roll their eyes. 'Cause just think about it. Think how many bullets the Punisher fires EVERY D@MN DAY! It just doesn't make any sense, right? Somebody GOTTA go down in the crossfire, right?

Wrong. Because think about the Punisher's origin. When his family was killed, THEY were innocent bystanders. If the Punisher was EVER the cause of something like that-- his war on crime would be over. He'd stop. The End. If he WERE to continue doing what he does-- the CHARACTER would no longer have any integrity."

I'm not sure what's more bizarre - that Dan Slott makes this argument for the Hulk and the Punisher in the name of "fun, silly comics" and fails to see that the same logic applies to characters like Starfox, or that he thinks the Punisher has all that much integrity.

5/11/2006 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I don't get why the thing in Desolation Jones is still so bothersome. Honestly, I don't put much, oh, love or loyalty into characters. Robina's death affected me as much as it affected Jones: "oh, that kinda sucks, but oh well."

And, you know, as far as I can tell, everybody still calls it Last Rites anyway.

But how can you not like zombies!?!? Urk! You are dead to me, Burgas. Dead!!!

5/11/2006 04:15:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Bill: Just because I expect better from Ellis. If it had been Larry Hama, it wouldn't have bugged me (and, of course, I wouldn't have been reading it).

I know "everyone" still calls it last rites, but do priests? I haven't spoken to a priest about it. If it had been Wylie saying it, I would have let it slide. But a priest?

Zombies - dead to me. I get it!

5/11/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Evan Waters said...

I think Slott isn't taking Starfox's power-abuse as seriously as the fans are. To use IDENTITY CRISIS as a parallel, it's closer to Zatanna's mind-wipes than Dr. Light's assaults, and though that series draws a weird moral equivalency between the two, mind-influencing powers are still in the realm of fantasy, so they don't come across as harshly.

And, like I said, there's an out. I don't see why this is a big issue or a sign of Slott's hypocrisy or something.

5/11/2006 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

I don't know nothing 'bout Slott's hypocrisy, because I didn't know about the statements he made. I'm still wondering two (2) things:

1. Is Starfox able to control his powers? (Commenters have implied that he can, but no one has stated it explicitly);

2. Is this really an appropriate comic to even bring it up? I think the idea is very interesting, but I'm not sure this is the place to do it.

5/11/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Blogger Hale of Angelthorne said...

"Aren't lawyers in the Marvel Universe kind of like scientists in the Marvel Universe?"

That's true on lawyer television series, too; the firms always take all types of cases (so long as they are sexy and can be resolved in 40 minutes), despite the fact that most firms (other than solo practitioners and small firms in small towns) are pretty specialized these days. You won't generally, for example, see a big Personal Injury firm that also does Criminal Defense work. But most writers (in comics and on tv) are incredibly ignorant about the law in general and what lawyers do specifically, and they want a wide variety of potential storylines. Which is why I generally don't lawyer shows on TV.

5/11/2006 10:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Coyle said...

Wait a minute- is Slott saying that The Punisher, a mass murderer, has integrity???

And Daley presided over a run of the Punisher that saw the character plunge completely into the sales gutter, so I wouldn't call him the best authority on what's right or wrong for the character.

5/12/2006 01:11:00 AM  
Blogger tomthedog said...

Is Bobillo off She-Hulk for good then? Man, that STINKS. His quirky twists on standard character designs (like Spider-Man, the Thing, and of course baby-face She-Hulk) were fantastically appealing. I enjoy the heck out of this book, but without Bobillo's art, that cuts my enjoyment almost in half.

5/12/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Yes, Tom, Bobillo is done. And you're right - I'm waiting to see who the new regular artist will be (Paul Smith is on for a few issues, but after that I don't know) before deciding if I want to keep the book, because Bobillo WAS such a big part of its charm.

5/12/2006 12:54:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I thought Paul Smith was the new regular artist.

5/12/2006 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

Paul Smith rules.

5/13/2006 04:16:00 AM  
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