Thursday, May 18, 2006

What I bought - 17 May 2006

Wow - I actually read everything I bought this week. Only one book was a mini-series, and it was the last issue. But that's the weird world of comic book distribution! Let's delve in, shall we?

This week's mini-theme: THE ART! IT BURNS MY EYES! All will be clear soon enough.

Bomb Queen #4 (of 4) by Jimmie Robinson
$3.50, Image

Well, Bomb Queen isn't awful, but it's certainly not as great as its creator thinks it is. I haven't quite gotten over the text piece in the back of the first issue, in which Robinson tells us how wonderful he is and how subversive Bomb Queen is. Well, he may be, but it's not.

It's a perfectly fine four-issue mini-series. There's loads of gratuitous violence and nudity, and nothing changes, as Ms. Queen is still in charge of New Port City at the end just as she was in the beginning. She does awful things - she is the villain, after all - and exposes the mayoral candidate Robert Woods as - shocking! - a hypocrite, but it all feels hollow. Allow me to explain.

It's obvious from page 1 of this book that Robinson wants it to be a satire. So, in order to be clear, I looked up "satire" in my handy-dandy dictionary. "Satire" is: A literary work in which irony, derision, or wit in any form is used to expose folly or wickedness. I have to think this qualifies. Except it's completely lacking in wit, which is where we separate good satire from poor satire. This is certainly ironic and derisive, and I know the definition says "OR," but good satire is able to be witty as well, even though it doesn't have to be. Anyone can be derisive, and most people can be ironic, but witty - that's a different story. In this series, Robinson simply wants to show that we as a society view sex and violence just as forms of entertainment, and we set people up as "heroes" and "villains" not based on any rigid morality, but whoever happens to cater to us. Therefore, Bomb Queen, who constantly reminds us she's a villain, loses the support of her city when it looks as if she's not playing fairly, but when Robert Woods attacks her in the last issue, she regains the adoration of the people because he is seen as acting unfairly. She has, ever so briefly, become the victim, and so is able to triumph in the court of public opinion, and the status quo is retained.

My question: so what? Robinson's book, as puerile and violent as it is, tells us nothing new. It's sad, sure, that this kind of book doesn't shock us and is nothing worse than you can see on network television (maybe not quite as graphically depicted, but close enough) any night of the week. Robinson isn't being as "cutting-edge" as he'd like to think, and he's certainly not doing anything particularly witty. Society sucks? Really? If Robinson really wants to do satire, he should pick something a little less obvious. Whenever I read satire, I'm invariably reminded of Swift's "A Modest Proposal." I can't help it. I don't want to compare anything to that because it's a classic, but Swift's proposal works because it is so off-the-wall, to the point, and although it's tongue in cheek, Swift never lets on that it's a joke. Robinson wants to poke fun at society as well as celebrate it, and therefore, Bomb Queen doesn't work. It's certainly entertaining, but it falls far short of its pretensions.

Fallen Angel #5 by Peter David and J. K. Woodward
$3.99, IDW

Meanwhile, we have the ending of what was supposed to be a mini-series, but is now an ongoing. So issue #5 wraps up a story arc and, surprisingly for this series, doesn't really set up that much for the next issue. Sure, Lee is staying in the city and helping out her son, who is now the Magistrate, but other than that, it feels like an ending. Next issue should be a fine place to start reading, if you're still not on board (for shame!).

This is an interesting issue, as the first four of the IDW series has been, because David eschews his usual coyness and actually gives us some closure, probably because he wrote this thinking it would be a mini-series. Therefore, Juris turns the administration of Bete Noire over to Jude, who gets more than he bargained for. Juris gleefully leaves town, with unexpected results. The core of the book is when Lee tells Jude that God wants to quit but humanity won't let him, because they keep worshipping him. Then idea that God is a concept we need to outgrow isn't necessarily original, but David sells it well. In the context of this book, we can believe it, because Lee does have first-hand knowledge of God, so she could be telling the truth. And the correlation between humanity not being able to let go of God and Xia not being able to let go of Juris is interesting, especially as Lee specifically links humanity to a battered wife.

As usual, David gives us plenty to chew on in this issue, and even though unexpected things happen, they are not events that come out of the blue but, once they occur, we understand why they did happen and how it got to that point. David is very good at this sort of thing, and when he doesn't allow his cleverness to overrun that trait in his writing, he's capable of brilliant stuff. This is one of those titles. So you should buy it.

Fell #5 by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith
$1.99, Image

I certainly don't want to keep harping on Desolation Jones, but because it is the most high-profile of Ellis' work these days (isn't it?), it colors how I am reading Ellis right now and how I criticize him. This latest issue of Fell fits in perfectly with that idea, because it's so similar to certain parts of Desolation Jones, specifically issues #2 and 3, in that it's basically a conversation between two people. How Ellis structures these conversations is why he's a fascinating and occasionally infuriating writer.

Richard's interrogation of Michael Connah is simply, as Ellis puts it, "a two-men-in-a-box" story. He discusses how he needed to lay out the story so that Templesmith could draw it and not make it a comic with one mounted "camera" showing the action. But although the art does keep us interested, it's the dialogue I want to consider. In DJ #2, we get the conversation between Michael and Emily, and I've mentioned that it is one of the more beautiful dialogues you're going to see in comics in a long time. In the third issue, we get the porn deconstruction, and it's annoying because it takes us out of the narrative and comes across as Ellis rambling on about whatever happens to interest him. During Fell's brief life, we have seen that Ellis also injects stuff that he finds fascinating into Snowtown, and although it hasn't taken over yet, it threatens to occasionally. In this issue he goes all psychological on us, as Richard breaks down Michael, who doesn't want to talk. But Richard is able to get him to crack, and Michael freaks out and pulls a gun. This is when Richard kicks it into high gear, and Michael eventually realizes what a mess his life has become. Richard talks him down, and this is where Ellis shines. Unlike the porn issue of Desolation Jones, but like the conversation in issue #2, Ellis is able to blend his pet ideas with dialogue that rings true, and so when Michael shouts "No-one can help me!" and then switches abruptly to "Help me," it affects us more than a porn actress simply spouting off horrible stories, even though we recognize how horrible it really is. Because Richard and even Michael are part of the narrative and are characters instead of mouthpieces, the interrogation scene has a drama and a resolution that is much more powerful than in Desolation Jones. And when Michael tells Richard not to waste time with Mayko, it also affects us, because it comes from their conversation and not from out of the blue. Therefore, Richard's exchange with Mayko at the end of the issue works well and is nicely done.

One of the reasons why I am so disappointed in DJ is because of issues like this. Ellis is so capable of this kind of thing that anything less is a big disappointment. Fell #5 delivers. And, as usual, it's one and done. Whoo-hoo!

Moon Knight #2 by Charlie Huston, David Finch, and Danny Miki
$2.99, Marvel

The awesomeness that is Moon Knight returns for a second issue, and it's interesting on several levels. First, let's look at the story. It's split into two sections, not unlike the first issue. In the first part of the issue, we see how Marc Spector got the way he is, as he battles Bushman, presumably to the death. Bushman throws him off a roof and breaks him into teeny, tiny pieces, but Marc still has enough in him to take out his arch-enemy. It's a nice brutal battle, with neither man speaking. The fact that Bushman says nothing in the issue is very cool, and all we get from MK is internal narration after the fact, as he reflects on this final battle. It's horrifically effective.

The scene then shifts to the present, as Crawley picks up Marc's drugs and brings them to him. Marc is still attended by Samuels and Nedda, which is strange, and he's not in the mood to talk to Crawley, who is trying to get him off his butt and back into action. Strange things are afoot, as we clearly see Khonshu's eyes glow in one panel. Marc wants nothing to do with him, but then Crawley tells him that Frenchie is in trouble. This spurs him into action. Finally, the last page shows us that Marc is being tracked (well, presumably it's Marc, although the guy calls him "asset prime") by people we assume are up to no good. So that sets up the rest of the story.

That's just the bare bones of it all. Let's look deeper. First, THE ART! IT BURNS MY EYES! Okay, not all the time. Finch has never been accused of being sloppy, and the details he is putting into this book is appreciated. The fight between Bushman and Moon Knight is beautifully rendered, except for a few crucial things. First, what the hell is up with Bushman? Others have been making fun of the cover for issues to come in which Bushman appears (#4, I think), and it's true - he's gigantic, which makes him very bizarre-looking. It's just ... off. As someone who owns every issue of the third (and most recent) Moon Knight series, I don't really recall the last time we saw Bushman, but I am certainly going to go check, because this Bushman is grotesque and barely human. At one point he licks the blade with which he cut Moon Knight, and the tongue sure ain't human. Yet we see his tongue later, and it looks normal. WTF? After Marc plunges from the roof and Bushman is about to gut him, it appears that Marc throws one of those nifty moon discs he has and it circles back around and catches Bushman in the neck. The layout of panels here is confusing, and it bugs me. Then, MK pulls Bushman's face off. Yes, it's icky, but it appears that Bushman was wearing the skin as a mask. When did that happen? Again, I have to go back and check my collection. Darn. Other than those things, Finch's art is very nice, and his details are fantastic. Again, I'm sort of on the good side of the fence when it comes to Finch's art, and despite those objections, I like the entire look of the book.

The final question I have when it comes to Moon Knight the series is whether it will appeal to enough new readers to make it viable. So far it's a wonderfully gripping story, but is Huston being too insular and appealing too much to the hard core fans of the character. Bushman is brought in with no fanfare and no update on who he is, other than Marc doesn't like him. The rest of the cast - Crawley and Samuels - simply show up, and why the heck (one might ask) is Crawley calling Marc "Jake"? These are small complaints from me, because it's nice to see how Huston is structuring this story so that it moves the character forward while still retaining some of the past, but are new fans going to pick this up because, maybe, of the appeal of David Finch but not stay with it because they don't know what the hell is going on? And if so, will the series survive?

I don't know. I'm just wondering. For now, this is a very good book. And it doesn't tie into Civil War!!!!!

Rex Mundi #18 by Arvid Nelson and Juan Ferreyra
$2.99, Image

Speaking of THE ART! IT BURNS MY EYES! I don't like Humberto Ramos. Therefore, I don't like this cover. Boy, it's ugly. Ugly ugly ugly. Boo, Humberto Ramos!

This is the last Image issue of this title, as it moves on to Dark Horse, and it's also an ending of sorts, as we reach the halfway point of the epic with Julien in the prison of the Inquisition, the king reasserting his control of France by arresting the Parliament, the Duke of Lorraine on the run but assembling an army, and Prussians on the border. Oh, the drama! The reason this book is better than, say, a certain new movie coming out starring a certain ex-cross dressing actor, is because we accept the hint of the supernatural that runs through this book, and when the Duke of Lorraine's daughter does some strange things, we accept that it adds a nice layer of meaning to the narrative. Isabelle is a wild card in the mix, and it's interesting how Nelson keeps introducing characters to his ever-expanding cast but we're still able to recognize them and understand their motivations. It's a mark of a good writer that he's able to do this.

I guess that there is a movie in the works, which is strange because of the aforementioned movie that opens this weekend, but its move to Dark Horse means that it might get more publicity and might actually sell some more copies. I'll keep saying it - this is a great book, people. Seek. Purchase.

Ultimate X-Men #70 by Robert Kirkman, Ben Oliver, and Jonathan Glapion
$2.99, Marvel

The last entrant in this week's THE ART! IT BURNS MY EYES! theme is this month's issue of UXM, drawn by Mr. Ben Oliver. It's not horrible art by any means, but let's look at a few egregious examples.

First, the Blob on the cover. He has just dropped a hoagie as Cyclops grabs him around the neck. I'm not sure if that's one of the dumbest things possible, or if it's clever. I vote STUPID! The interior art is fine, except for the fight scene between the X-Men and the Brotherhood. It's far too cluttered. It's difficult to tell what's going on just by glancing at it. We need to really try to sort through all the various characters, and it's really not worth effort. A poor layout by Oliver. And the characters look too old. They're teenagers!

Other than that, it's a decent enough issue, plagued by the normal middle issue syndrome in that everything has already been set up but nothing can be resolved. So we get fights and lots of hemming and hawing on the Lilandra/Jean Grey front, until the Phoenix shows up at the end. I've said it before that the presence of the Phoenix in the Ultimate Universe is okay with me for now, but I truly hope Kirkman wraps it up satisfactorily next issue and it's never heard from again. I won't hold my breath.

Oh, and Kurt's an asshole. On the one hand, it's a shame, but on the other hand, it's kind of cool. We need more assholes who happen to be heroes in comics. Batman doesn't count. He's always been an asshole.

X-Men #186 by Peter Milligan and Salvador Larroca
$2.99, Marvel

And so the Peter Milligan era on X-Men comes to an end (doesn't it? this is his last issue, right?) on a strange and disappointing note, much like the rest of his run. It was marked by absolutely gorgeous art, which continues in this issue and odd ideas that could have taken this title somewhere special but never really got developed, and I'm not sure if that's Milligan's fault or the editors'. In this issue Apocalypse finally realizes that the mutants who might be best suited to survive are those that fight against him so vehemently. It's something that has been obvious for years, but Milligan points it out, which is nice. The fight between Apocalypse and the X-Men is interesting, and it's nice to see that Milligan remembered the Avengers are in New York, since the last time a mutant bad guy came to Manhattan (Magneto), there seemed to be a distinct lack of superheroes around. The presence of the Sentinels continues to be annoying, but let's hope they're going away soon. And Milligan leaves plenty of things unresolved for the next writer, including some tantalizing things about Apocalypse himself. I'm sick of Apocalypse, but at the same time, he does have potential (as long as he loses that stupid outfit!), and it would be nice to see someone realize it. Milligan wrote the best Apocalypse I can remember, but as usual with this bunch of issues, it was strangely neutered.

I can't say this was a very good run of X-Men, but it wasn't awful, either. At least Milligan tried some things, even if they didn't come to fruition. But this is what it means to write Marvel's Merry Mutants - everything must always stay the same!!!!!

So, a pretty good week. And, surprisingly, not a DC comic in the bunch! That's weird.

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Anonymous muldertp said...

It's not Milligan's last issue...he's got at least one more, according to Marvel's website. He's got #187, which allegedly wraps up this arc, and then the new writer takes over.

And, I agree, Fell was great this favorite of the series yet.

Did you drop Batman Year 100? Despite my initial hatred for the book, it got better every issue and I loved the last issue, although the resolution seemed to be intentionally vague.

Finally, I know it's not a comic, but the Alex Ross Plastic Man figure has to be the best figure DC Direct has put out...take a look at all the interchangeable & bendable parts and you'll see how much work they put into it.

5/18/2006 01:12:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I don't like Paul Pope, so I never bought Batman Year 100. Yes, I know: Sacrilege!!!! I just think his art is u-g-l-y.

5/18/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

The rest of the cast - Crawley and Samuels - simply show up, and why the heck (one might ask) is Crawley calling Marc "Jake"?

In the original series, "Jake Lockley" was one of Marc Spector's alter egos, a cab driver, which allowed him to get critical information on the street while out of costume. Crawley was his main informant. Not sure if that changed under later writers.

As for Bushman's appearance, I'm chalking that up to the hyper-steroidal physiques Finch seems to favor, in general, and Spector's fevered memory w/r/t the demonic tongue. And I'm pretty sure that was his actual face he carved off, not simply a mask.

You can definitely tell this was written as a mini-series and not the beginning of an ongoing, but I'm guessing that it'll find its audience nevertheless, settling in around the mid-to-high 30k range by the 6th issue.

5/18/2006 10:23:00 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

Guy - I'm disappointed! Of course I know who "Jake" is - I'm just wondering if casual readers will know and if that will put them off the book. Sheesh. That's an interesting theory about Bushman, and that's why I have to dig back through the issues to see if Bushman ever actually changed, or if it's just Finch being Finch.

5/18/2006 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Brett said...

Agree on Bomb Queen, really never went anywhere, just felt sadistic to me. Just never clicked like I expected it to.

5/18/2006 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger ninjawookie said...

no batman year 100? no robin!?!?


5/18/2006 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

Greg: About half an hour after I left that comment I remembered you were an old Moon Knight fan and was like, "Duh! He meant new readers!" So yeah... :-O

That said, I think Houston's purposefully dangled several threads throughout these first two issues to pique new readers' interest while rewarding older fans' knowledge. Mini-series vs. ongoing typically means looser rules around introducing characters, etc.

5/18/2006 02:19:00 PM  
Anonymous muldertp said...

"I don't like Paul Pope, so I never bought Batman Year 100. Yes, I know: Sacrilege!!!! I just think his art is u-g-l-y."

When I said that in a comment on this blog, I got electronically come it's not happening to you? Special Anti-Dr. Light powers?

Even so, the art grew on me.

5/18/2006 02:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Today when a comic like Moon Knight comes out and doesn't give the reader all the information; it isn't as big of a deal as it was ten to fifteen years ago. I picked up issue #1 after looking at the cover and reading a couple pages. I really liked it. At that point I hadn't read any previous Moon Knight series. I went home with the issue and with a little help from google I found a wealth of information on him. Total time spent~10 min. I'm now a Moon Knight fan and I'm looking for the back issues of the other series. I think it just proves that so long as the new material is done well, which I think it was it this case, a causual fan can become a regular reader. The big trick is to get the initial intrest.

5/18/2006 02:29:00 PM  
Blogger Bill Reed said...

I don't like Paul Pope, so I never bought Batman Year 100. Yes, I know: Sacrilege!!!! I just think his art is u-g-l-y.

Now you're even deader to me, Burgas!!!

5/18/2006 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

My mind has special defense tactics, so it just blurred out Greg's comments about Pope, so I could not read them.

5/18/2006 03:06:00 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Y'see, muldertp, everyone knows that I, and not Cronin, am the real brains and quality control of the operation here, so when I say I don't like Paul Pope's art, everyone must reassess their own enjoyment of it in light of my all-encompassing powers! That is why I go unscathed!

Okay, maybe that's not true. Go back and read my review of Owly sometime to see someone get raked over the coals.

5/18/2006 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Nik said...

That Moon Knight #2 was one rough puppy. Really didn't expect it to get quite so graphic - thought I was reading a MAX comic. It was cool and all, but the storytelling was a bit vague.

5/18/2006 09:45:00 PM  
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8/16/2010 02:54:00 AM  

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