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The Shopping List 9-22-10


Uhh … Mixed bag this week. I may have found another unclaimed seven dollars for comics next month.

Avengers Academy #4 by Christos Gage and Mike McKone ****

This second and concluding chapter of the “Scared Straight” crossover with Thunderbolts is also the weakest issue of this book yet. Most of this has to do with the prominence of Mettle, who I so far find the least interesting of the group. Also, his persistent use of the word “brah” is grating.

There is some good stuff here though. Hazmat makes a nice threat and you can really tell Hank Pym wants what’s best for these kids. Christos Gage decides to play Norman Osborne as Lex Luthor rather than the dissociative identity disorder guy we’ve seen since Civil War. Nothing wrong with that, but you really wonder how these kids could believe a word he says. The heroes have said a million times since he was in power “He’s the freaking Green Goblin!”

As I say, this may be the weakest issue of this book so far, but still, four stars.

Black Widow #6Black Widow #6 by Dwayne Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia ***

This is an exciting start for a new creative team. Nothing more complex than a case of mistaken identity, but Swierczynski has Natasha doing some undercover work, surveillance, and hand-to-hand combat proving her years of training.

Manuel Garcia draws some emotional, action-filled panels with his jagged pencils. His females show a bit more cleavage than necessary, but they do look good. I will say though, for a smooth, crafty spy book, I’d like some art that matches. (I would do bad things for a Greg Rucka/Terry Dodson Widow book.) Garcia would be well suited to something grittier, maybe Moon Knight.

It’s nice to see this book continue, even without its original creative team.

The Flash #5Flash #5 by Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul ****

This book has a lot of good things going for it. But for each, you gotta take the bad with the good.

The Good: The Rogues – Part of what makes the Flash so great (regardless of who’s in the suit) is the Rogues. They’re unique and they share a bond. Teamwork comes more natural to them than Superman’s villains, for example. With that in mind, pitting two sets of Rogues against each other is a great idea.

The Bad: But it also mean that your storytelling has to be crystal clear. When you zoom out too far, no one can tell the difference between Captain Cold and Commander Cold. I swear there are some errors in this book because I’ve read page 4 a few times and it still does not make sense.

The Good: Momentum coming out of Blackest Night – Plenty of people read about Barry in last year’s big event and seeing Johns’ name on a new iteration of a book he was great on years ago no doubt influenced plenty of them to pick it up.

The Bad: Not everyone read Blackest Night. So having Captain Boomerang go into a hallucination about his post-resurrection mission feels out-of-nowhere. Way to cater to new readers.

The Good: A simple hook – The Rogues from the future have to come back to stop a murder before it happens.

The Bad: You know what the problem with time travels stories is? You have to spend half your time explaining how it works and why the typical paradoxes do or don’t apply here.

The Good: The art – Francis Manapul is perfect on this book.

The Bad: I got nothing. He’s perfect.

I don’t mean to make it sound like I don’t enjoy this book, but it does have problems.

Nemesis #3 by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven *

Wow. This book is tasteless. Just trashy. It’s got one issue left and I don’t want to buy the final issue. The only redemption here would be to see Nemesis pay for his sins. He has to pay for his cruel, revolting, implausible sins. If Mark Millar is going to give me that, maybe I’ll give him another three dollars. But I can’t encourage a book where this guy wins. Of course, Millar teases a follow-up series in the back matter, so I may as well piss into the wind.

I’m not going to boycott Millar. Just this book. Superior looks very nice. Maybe it’s actually about a hero.

Violence doesn’t bother me. I read superhero comic books, so maybe that’s obvious. Nemesis can kill all the cops he wants. But when you inseminate a teenage girl with her gay brother’s semen and then booby trap her womb so terminating the pregnancy will make her unable to ever conceive again, you leave me so offended that I cannot describe it.

Did I just spoil that for you? Good.

Steve McNiven does draw some nice pictures though. I wish he didn’t waste his time on this story.

Uncanny X-Men #528 by Matt Fraction and Whilce Portacio **

Yeah, I’m done with this book too. I know I said I may hold on until Kieron Gillen helps on writing chores, but I can’t wait. If I hear that the book turns, I’ll probably pick up the issues I skip. In the meantime, this book is not enjoyable.

It’s not for a lack of plots either. We’ve got another of the five lights, Iceman trying to find the X-men a publicist, Emma dealing with her prisoner (Sebastian Shaw), Namor dealing with underwater subordination, Colossus trying to connect with his ghost of a girlfriend, and a riot at a San Francisco art museum. Six plots in 22 pages. As it stands, 11 pages are dedicated to Storm and Hope saving the new mutant. Another half of them: Iceman, Namor, and the art museum, are brand new. I’m not sure one monthly issue can handle much more than an A, a B and possibly, a C plot. Give each one some real attention so they can move forward.

Once again, this book is suffering from a lack of focus. I’m done.

So yeah … some new holes in the budget. Maybe I can save some money for New York Comic Con next month!

Library Reviews 9-27-10


The library lets you take as many books out as you want. You just bring them back in three weeks. So, I read a lot of crap. Luckily, this batch was quite good.

Astro City: The Dark Ages, Book. 1: Brothers and Other StrangersAstro City: The Dark Ages, Book 1: Brothers and Other Strangers by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

That’s a long name for a book, huh? I’ll give you a shorter one: “Today’s Best Hero Comics.” In the intro to first Astro City trade, Busiek basically says “This is why we deconstructed heroes in the 80s: to learn how they work and how to make them work better.” From cosmic clashes to the idea of family legacies, Busiek has covered many aspects of heroes and always treated them interestingly and with the respect these modern gods deserve.

Much he did in the classic Marvels, Busiek often uses the point-of-view of the average citizen, living as a human in a world filled with superhumans. In most comics, where you only follow the heroes, you lose the scope of the events, the sense that these are extraordinary happenings. Exploding planets and Nazi gorillas become common-place.

This tale of two brothers, one living a life of crime and one a life of fighting crime, shows how regular people live with the incredible world around them. When a battle trashes an apartment building, lives can be ruined. We saw one mother’s reaction to the events that started Marvel’s Civil War, but what about after that? Those people have to live with what happened for the rest of their lives. That’s what this specific story is about.

“Two minutes before he arrived in Astro City.” I bet you didn’t get chills reading that sentence. But I did. To explain it would spoil the story. Though I rarely worry about things like that, I will here. These are comics I would recommend to anyone. Especially you, reader.

Batwoman: ElegyBatwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J. H. Williams III

For the nine months or so this team worked on this book, it was the best on the stands.

When people talk about storytelling in comics, they basically mean how well you can understand the story without reading the words. Can you properly read emotions? Do the events take place in a logical, natural order? Those “people” includes myself of course. When talked last week about Frank Quitely’s work on Batman and Robin, that’s what I was discussing. But with his Batwoman work (originally published in Detective Comics), J. H. Williams truly helps tell the story. His art takes multiple styles, sometimes even on the same page. The simplest example being the use of one style for Batwoman activities, similar to the J. H. you know and another for Kate Kane, her civilian identity, almost a John Paul Leon look. One on page, Kate, at a formal fundraiser, has an epiphany of Alice’s (the story’s antagonist) true plot. The next panel, the art changes to the “Batwoman” style. We don’t just know how Kate’s mind reacts to the news, we see it: she immediately switches to Batwoman mode. It’s just brilliant. But Williams art would not be as impactful without colorist extraordinaire Dave Stewart. As the pencils change, so do the colors. Stark black, white and red for the intro pages,. Flat colors for flashbacks time. Minimal rendering for civilian time. Full rendering for the Batwoman/Alice battles. There’s even some watercolor work in here, which may be Williams’. These artist put thought into every choice and it shows.

Together, this team (including writer Greg Rucka) proved that comics don’t need to use regular panels to be legible. They don’t have to be an artist reproducing a known character in his/her style. They shouldn’t strive to be fine art, ready to hang in a museum. They should be art, and sometimes words, that tell a story. They should be COMICS.

Some critics have said that Rucka’s writing pales in comparison to Williams’ art, but it doesn’t. Rereading this series, I saw how well Rucka was planting seeds. The biggest twist of the story is hinted at multiple times. And that’s just looking at the main plot. You can’t forget that Rucka has fleshed out a believable character who happens to be a lesbian. It’s not a defining characteristic, it’s just part of her. It’s a serious matter, which leads to her separation from the US military, but not she, nor anyone in her life treats it as a flaw. It was nice to read about a character coming out to her family and not have it be treated as a crisis.

I could go on and on, but I’m saying nothing new about this series. I loved it. Though Rucka has moved on, I can’t wait for Williams’ upcoming Batwoman book.

Fables: Legends in ExileFables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Steve Leialoha

Some friends in college were wicked into this series. I read the first two trades then, but it never grabbed me. The idea is super interesting, but I never cared to continue. I would hear review after review praising it up and down and would always dismiss it. But when I saw it on the shelves, I figured I could give it another shot.

I enjoyed it a whole lot more this time, though I’m still not 100% interested. Perhaps hearing what the series has done in recent years, I’ve realized who some background characters were, giving me more investment. I’m want to read more, and that’s really what matters, right?

The Unwritten - Inside ManThe Unwritten: Inside Man by Mike Carey

Perhaps in a few years, I’ll come back and enjoy this series more than I do now, as I did with Fables. The fictional vs. reality ideas just ran too thin for me. When I cared more about the prison warden and his children, rather than the stars of the series, I knew something was off.

There’s nothing wrong with this book, it’s just not for me. You can’t say I didn’t give it a try.

Summer BlondeSummer Blonde by Adrian Tomine

I’ve talked about Adrian Tomine on here before, reviewing 32 Stories and Shortcomings. I’ve also read Sleepwalk and Other Stories, the first collection of his Optic Nerve issues. The problem with that volume, and not this one was their stories’ endings. Stories would end abruptly, without closure, and with twists that came out of nowhere. This is also the reason I don’t like JD Salinger’s “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” The writer defines a character, sets up their conflict (if they have one) and then takes a left turn to end the story.

Sample plot (“Pink Frosting” from Sleepwalk): “Oh man, look at this birthday cake … I hope she likes it … Oh man, that car almost hit me … Aw, I just got curb-stomped like American History X.” What?

The argument can be made that these are character pieces, slice-of-life. In that case they have too much plot. They aren’t simple, every day events. These are important moments in people’s lives. The abrupt ending can be a story-telling tool, but if that’s the idea, the tool has been dulled by overuse.

You know what? I’ll take the blame. I probably “don’t get it” or “see how significant these ‘arbitrary’ events are.”

The art is perfect, but Tomine was yet to reach the heights he would later find in Shortcomings. That story’s longer length allowed him to tell a story to its actual conclusion rather than an arbitrary event suddenly given false import by the words “The End”.

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The Shopping List 9-15-10


This was a quality not quantity week. Here we go:

Morning Glories #2Morning Glories #2 by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma ****

The least I can say is that you should buy this book. Your shop may have issue two in stock. If not, a second printing is coming. And the third printing of issue one came out this week as well.

What you want me to say more? OK.

of the Glories (I guess we’re going to call them that, even if the book doesn’t?) acts like a normal person. Whether being questioned by a teacher or locked in a room filling with water, they argue, they panic, they each have their own reactions but they are all real. Nick Spencer is also doing something right with the staff of Morning Glory Academy. As a reader, I still don’t know their goal, but it’s not bothering me yet. That’s because in each scene, there is still something concrete that they want, even if it’s to have one of the student’s answer a question. This is how you handle mysterious circumstances. Each

Artist Joe Eisma has to be given equal credit for the characters’ clear personalities. Even if they are only in the background, Eisma gives each of the kids something to do like Jade writing or Ike reclining at his desk. That’s how they’ve defined these characters and gotten readers to relate to them so well in only two issues. *clap clap*

Thunderbolts #148Thunderbolts #148 by Jeff Parker and Declan Shalvey ****

The Siege tie-in issues were a killer for Thunderbolts. Of course, the arc also had the task of closing down that chapter in the book’s life, but the main thrust of the arc, the Spear of Odin, was inconsequential, much like the arc itself.

Not here. Rather than find a way the Bolts can fight Daredevil, Jeff Parker finds a side of the story mostly ignored, the prisoners of Shadowland, and giving one of the prisoners a connection to Luke Cage. Luke then sends his team out as, in Moonstone’s words, “his own private death squad.” Something great comes of this, as the leash is taken off and they are allowed to fight undead ninjas without restraint. Man-thing crushing people’s heads. Crossbones with a flamethrower. And it looks this will only continue next month. Woohoo.

Not seeing Kev Walker’s name on the cover was a disappointment, but Shalvey’s work is not a problem. It’s quite good. He sticks to square, easy to follow panels, but varies the layout and sizes to great effect. Reading through the issue again, another thing that sticks out to me is how often he moves the POV in and out of a scene. On page 15, he starts with way back with five figures at different depths. Then an extreme wide shot, an extreme close-up, another wide shot, then a midshot of two characters. Parker does him a favor by never asking him to repeat the same panel, but even when he does, he’ll change the zoom to keep it interesting. Perhaps this is more common than I think, but it caught my attention.

Wow. As I write this, I realize I like this issue even more than I thought. Awesome.

X-Factor #209X-Factor #209 by Peter David and Emanuela Lupacchino

I was going to start this review by saying that no other X-book, or really any hero book, would ever take a trip to Vegas for gambling, pirate fisticuffs, and stripclubs. Then I remembered why X-Factor is so good: it’s not a hero book. The best storylines haven’t revolved around some megalomaniac trying to take over the world, but people with extraordinary abilities helping people in extraordinary situations. This story is no different. Summarized as much as possible, X-Factor is trying to rescue someone who was kidnapped. But in Peter David’s hands, that simple plot is made so much more interesting.

Emanuela Lupacchino returns on art. She’s a real find. Her linework is filled with details in the Vegas hotels and casinos. And her characters are the distillation of themselves. A trip to the craps table puts Longshot the showoff and Layla the excitable kid on display. And I hate sounding like such a dude, but her Banshee (Siryn) is super hot. And on page 8, Rahne has the best butt I’ve ever seen in a comic. Must be those cheeky underwear.

I’m running out of ways to compliment this book. Read it for yourself.

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Comic Theft in Worcester, MA


This just in from Bleeding Cool:

Copies of Incredible Hulk #180-182 (Wolverine’s first appearances) have been stolen from a local comic collector here in Worcester, MA. Apparently, the idiot then tried to sell the comics at my local store That’s Entertainment! In a fun twist, the guy they were stolen from works at That’sE. This means I’ve probably talked to this guy weekly for a few years.

The thief has been identified as a latino male in his thirties. The original owner will reimburse anyone who buys the issues back cheaply. I know it’s a long shot, but if anyone in the Worcester area knows anything, please help out.

Library Reviews 9-17-10


Nothing too in-depth, but some quick thoughts on some books I’ve read recently.

Batman and Robin: Batman RebornBatman and Robin: Batman Reborn by Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely and Philip Tan

I do not believe this is the be-all, end-all series that some people are calling it. These are good comics, not great. Interesting is not a big enough word for Grant Morrison’s ideas, but too often, I feel he can’t follow though on them. I remember being so excited to read his New X-Men and Animal Man, but they never met my expectations. Come to think of it, only WE3 and All-Star Superman have. Here, he creates two unusual villains in Professor Pyg and the Flamingo, but very little comes of them. Both conflicts are solved by punching enough people enough times.

Since Philip Tan’s art is perfectly underwhelming, the real star here is Frank Quitely. I still don’t like his figures, but this is exemplary comics storytelling. I don’t necessarily mean his illustrated sound effects or camera angles. I mean things like showing Alfred preparing a meal in the penthouse, taking an elevator down the tower, climbing a ladder down to the batcave, and down a fight of stairs to the garage. We get a tour of the new base of operations, interactions with Dick and Damian, and a look into Alfred’s character. ALL IN ONE PAGE. Much admiration for that.

Hulk: Vs. X-ForceHulk Vs. X-Force by Jeph Loeb and Ian Chuchill with Whilce Portacio

I’m glad I didn’t pay for this, but I enjoyed reading it. It doesn’t make sense. It will not change your life or how you look at it. It’s just punchy, stabby action. It’s nice to see a cartoony take on the X-Force characters. The art on that book was always dreary or photo-realistic. Nice change-up here. The final issue in the collection, however, is the stand-out. That issue features Leonard Samson going under psychoanalysis from an unlikely doctor. That was my favorite. It was more cerebral, showing a side of Jeph Loeb I’ve always liked. This book isn’t worth buying, especially at its $4 price tag, but on a rainy day, for free, it’s worth a look.

Iron Man: Execute ProgramInvincible Iron Man: Execute Program by Daniel Knauf, Charles Knauf and Patrick Zircher

It must have been daunting to take over this book right after Warren Ellis wrote “Extremis,” but the Knaufs have nothing to be ashamed of. They write the best fun, playboy Tony Stark I’ve read, Matt Fraction’s book included. If you’re reading Iron Man with Robert Downey, Jr. in your head, this is a perfect fit. The only problem is that the story itself isn’t anything to write home about: Tony Stark loses control of his suit, blah blah blah. In fact, halfway through the book, I remembered that I read it last year or so. If that doesn’t tell you how memorable this book isn’t, nothing will.

Incorruptible, Vol. 1Incorruptible by Mark Waid and Jean Diaz

This was a cool book. Max Damage was a great superhero who decided to turn it around when his world’s greatest hero turned to evil. I’ve said before I enjoy villain books and seeing him try to do good, going as far as torching his stolen money and cars, is an interesting idea. There’s four issues here, so there’s not much more than setup, but it’s a lot of fun. I’ve never heard of Jean Diaz, but his art is impressive. Characters are larger than life and his panel layouts keep the pages interesting. I definitely plan on keeping up with this book and its sister, Irredeemable.

Justice League of America: When Worlds CollideJustice League of America: When Worlds Collide by Dwayne McDuffie and six pencilers

Six pencilers for seven issues? Really? That should show how little DC cared about making this a top-tier book. Dwayne McDuffie pulls some old Milestone characters into the DC universe and … I don’t really care. Only Hardware gets enough room to show some character, but all I can really remember is that he curses a lot. I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy this book. I don’t know why I continue reading it. “Thank you Holden Public Library. May I have another?” At least I didn’t have to pay for it.

Supergirl: CandorSupergirl: Candor by five writers and seven pencilers

With this book, DC’s trade department confused the hell out of me. Two of the stories don’t even involve Supergirl! After a cluster of four stories from around the DCU, this book collects the One-Year-Later story from Supergirl. It’s a strange tale, which desperately needs some context. Supergirl and Power Girl are stuck in the bottle city of Kandor (maybe there by choice?), fighting against the cruel dictator Kal-El. It isn’t Superman Kal-El (I think), but I never understood who he was. The last issue is outside of the bottle, but without any explanation or closure to that storyline. How did they get out? Was it a dream? Did I miss something? This book was not only bad, it was badly put together.

Superman: For TomorrowSuperman: For Tomorrow, Vol. 1 by Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee

Superman is not interesting to me when he’s facing a physical threat. He’s Superman! He will not lose! Yes, the actual conflict of this book didn’t intrigue me, but I did dig Kal debating issues with a priest. The conflict of religion and superheroics is always an interesting one. It’s moments like those that remind me of how good Azz can be. It is nice to see some Jim Lee artwork, if only to see once again how big of an influence he has had on the industry. Sadly, I have no desire to read volume 2.

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$20 a Week, Part 2 – On the Edge


Two weeks ago, I posted about the books on my pull list, which I try hold to a high standard because of my $20 a week budget. But those aren’t the only books I buy each month. I also have a number of books on the edge. On the edge represents those books that haven’t been good enough to subscribe to, but haven’t been bad enough to stop buying.

Black Widow – Widow is one of my favorite characters who is always on the verge of supporting their own book. I find it genuinely confusing that the industry can’t support a monthly super-spy book, though I suppose Captain America fills a bit of that niche. I liked Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna’s arc, but now the creative team is already changing. I’m going to buy the next issue, but I’m treating it like a #1. I’ll give Swiercynzki two months to convince me. I dug his Iron Fist, so I’m optimistic.

Morning Glories – What a geat two issues this book has had. Anyone who read my review knows I was interested since the first teaser was released. I just hope the Spencer and Eisma can keep the momentum going.

Nemesis – I shouldn’t buy this book. I respect both of the creators, but this is so far below the level of quality that I have come to expect from each of them. I haven’t really enjoyed the two issues so far, but a day will come when I will wish I had read this. I dropped Kick -Ass around issue four, and then spent too much time tracking down the issues I missed once it had been completed. Eight dollars now is better than 20 dollar later.

Scarlet – In my last review, I said that Scarlet needed to give me the big hook soon or I was gone. Then on Wednesday, Bendis tweeted that the big hook is coming in issue four. So … I guess I’m reading until then.

War Heroes – What’s the book about again? Oh right, soldiers given powers to fight the war on terror. Maybe now that Ex Machina is finished, Tony Harris can knock these issues out.

Ultimate X – Batman: Hush was one of the stories that got me into comics. Daredevil: Yellow is my favorite hero story ever. Because of those facts, I have a soft spot for Jeph Loeb. Much of his current output has been, well, stupid, but Ultimate X is different. Where Hulk is dumb fun and Ultimates 3 was such a reversal of Millar’s Ultimates, Ultimate X has been a methodical, character-based book. There just haven’t been enough issues for me to commit yet.

Uncanny X-Men – This has until the end of the current arc before I make a decision. I’m a fan of the X-Men and since Messiah Complex, Uncanny has been the crucial book for following their adventures. Since Second Coming however, I’m not sure what this book’s mission or identity is. Even the idea of the current arc, showcasing five new mutants, will be usurped by Generation Hope in a couple months. After that, I get the fear that Matt Fraction will be left holding the bag. AND THEN … Marvel announced that Kieron Gillen, one of the geniuses behind Phonogram, will be joining Fraction on writing with issue #531. I haven’t been wild about anything Gillen’s done for Marvel, but this is an interesting development to say the least. DAMN YOU MARVEL AND YOUR CREATIVE TEAM TRICKERY!

The whole part of discussing a pull list is so you, the readers can see what I like (and I don’t) and make some suggestions. So have at it! What series am I missing out on right now?

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