Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Comics for 20 October 2004

Let's see what was in the box this week.

1000 Steps to World Domination by Rob Osborne
$12.95, AiT/Planet Lar

This doesn't really count as a weekly comic book (or "pamphlets," as some people call them), but I'll check it out anyway. I heard about this not long ago, and thought I'd take a look. This, I believe, is the first book by AiT/Planet Lar I've ever bought, and it's not bad. For 13 bucks, I don't think it's worth it, but it's not bad. It's actually pretty funny, but I just don't think it's worth it.

The basic premise is this: struggling comic book writer/artist comes up with a plan to write comic books and take over the world. His wife thinks he's wacko, his parents worry about him, God gives him advice, and he hallucinates that a monkey dressed like a clown is helping/hindering him. I guess that last thing is the literal monkey on his back, but I wouldn't presume to guess. It's well drawn and somewhat clever, but it falls short because it really doesn't tell us anything new about the creative process. I'm also not sure what the aliens are doing in the book, although they do have some of the best lines.

All in all, it's a nice little book, but I wouldn't recommend spending the money for it. Maybe if it were under 10 dollars, it would be worth it, but in this brave new world of ridiculously priced comic books, it's just not enough. And, of course, I plan on taking over the world, so Osborne will have competition.

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty #4 by Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne
$1.99, Beckett Entertainment

Beckett has made a splash recently with this title, Fade from Grace, and Ruule, and I have been buying the first two. I haven't made up mind yet on these, although I'm leaning more toward this title than Fade from Grace, which is kind of a take on Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty, the first issue of which was given away on Free Comic Book Day this summer (and therefore I don't have it, since I don't go to FCBD), is a Western take on the fable of Sleeping Beauty, and it's pretty interesting. We have the young, idealistic boy searching for the sleeping girl, the grizzled old man whose wife has been murdered, the roly-poly sidekick, the marshal who's really a bad guy -- all the stuff you might expect from a Western, but with some nice twists.

The story begins with Cole buried up to his neck while the murderer of his wife stands over him. We're not sure if it's a flashback or flash-forward, but we learn later it's definitely a flashback. Who is the killer? Who knows? Then we return to the present, and the crows from last issue are still attacking our threesome. They make it to a town, and the crows mysteriously stop. Hmmm ... Then there's a female bartender (another Western cliche!) who knows, well, everything. (She's also dressed in blue, and her name is Blue! Wow!) She explains that the crows are kind of freaky, and people should run when they see them, and she knows what Cole's up to, and she explains that only certain people can actually see the town. We also learn that the marshal (like I remember his name) knows that the bad guys shouldn't go into a town where the birds can't go, so he knows something. Finally, we get a flashback from Red's point of view, where we learn that Sleeping Beauty knew she was going to go to sleep, and there was nothing she could do about it. Intriguing. Something like "The Lottery" going on? Maybe.

As you can see, some of things in here are goofy, especially when Benson gets lazy and throws the cliches around. However, this is a neat story, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes. Beckett is saturating places like Wizard with advertisements for their books, and it would be nice to see these books find a market. Any challenge to the Big Two is welcome. For less than 2 dollars, everyone should be checking this out.

Human Target #15 by Peter Milligan and Cliff Chiang
$2.95, DC/Vertigo

Peter Milligan is a weird writer, because some of his stuff is brilliant, and some is just ... boring. Read some of his issues of Elektra, for instance. He's taking over X-Men, and I doubt if I'll read it, because I can always read Human Target if I want to read something by Milligan that is innovative. That said, the latest issue of Human Target is fine, but nothing special. Christopher Chance keeps telling us that he loses himself in the people he impersonates, and that in many ways, he becomes them. This was never more evident in the mini-series that started Milligan's relationship with Chance, or the graphic novel that kicked off the ongoing series, but it's been hit and miss in the ongoing. That's not to say it's a bad read -- it's just not as mind-bending as Milligan could be, which is a shame. The first part of this story (this is Part Two) promised a exploration of religion and how a messiah-figure could use or abuse that power, but this issue steps back from that and just shows people trying to kill Paul James (Christopher Chance, that is) for various reasons. The most interesting thing in the book is the one page where we see what the real Paul James is doing, namely, snorting coke and screwing as many women as he can. Milligan, along with most writers, has a big problem with religion in general and Christianity in particular, and he has an opportunity to explore that, but he doesn't It appears he will explore that next issue, in the final part of the story, but this issue just feels like Milligan's treading water. Buy the Human Target trade paperbacks if you haven't gotten into the series, because it's well worth it. This title slogs along with poor sales, so who knows how long it's going to last, but it is a fascinating read.

(Yes, Milligan did write Elektra. Mike Deodato did the art. Shockingly crappy.)

Identity Crisis #5 by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales, and Michael Bair
$3.95, DC

Four bucks? Four bucks?!?!?!? Holy crap. Yes, it's entertaining, and yes, it has delivered on the hype, and yes, it highlights some of DC's heroes and villains that don't get the attention they might deserve, but man, it's spendy. Okay, that's my rant for now.

Beautiful cover. I actually can't see the appeal of Michael Turner, but he can draw a nice cover. Maybe he should turn into Brian Bolland or Adam Hughes and just do covers. As for the issue ... not much happens. We've been flying along at such a fast pace, that this sucker feels like padding. That's not to say that Meltzer doesn't continue scything his way through the DC Universe. People die, and I won't give away the big shocker, but I would like to say something about the fate of Firestorm. It's kind of neat what happens to him, but doesn't he deserve better? There's a new Firestorm out there, and nobody cares what happens to the old one (in marked contrast to the fate of Hal Jordan), but it seems kind of weird, the way he dies. He's survived much worse, after all. It also annoys me, in the wake of John Byrne spitting on Doom Patrol history, that everyone ignores John Ostrander's run on Firestorm, where he turned him into an elemental like Swamp Thing and our hero saved the world by getting sucked into the sun (long story). I will never understand companies allowing writers to come up with neat stories and then crapping all over them later. Anyway, Firestorm's gone. I'm not going into the end of the book, with Robin worrying about his father, although I do wonder if the Scarecrow isn't involved somehow. Jack Drake just acts really weird at the end. Meltzer has a nice grasp of his characters, as Deadshot proves once again how cool a character he can be (Ostrander made him cool in Suicide Squad -- Ostrander makes most characters cool) and there's some nice interplay between Captain Boomerang and his son, whose maternal origins come into question. It's a fine read, but still -- nothing happens toward solving the mystery, except one suspect is eliminated. I have no desire to try to figure out who the killer is, because I'm not smart enough, but I will look forward to the last two issues. We'll see if Meltzer can pull it all together in a dramatic fashion.

Four bucks?!?!?!?

Noble Causes #3 by Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno
$3.50, Image

Why the crap are comics so expensive? Everyone talks about why people don't buy comics anymore, and why little kids don't buy them, and why the sales figures are nowhere near what they used to be. The reasons are legion, but cost has to be one of them. Noble Causes is a nice little book, but is it really worth it? I'm not sure.

Anyway. Things continue to simmer in this issue. Faerber writes in the grand tradition of the great Chris Claremont (not the pretender who's writing these days, but the one from the 1970s and 1980s) in that he's not afraid to throw three or four storylines into one issue and trust the reader to keep up. In this issue, Rusty, Cosmic Rae, Frost, and Celeste are with the other heroes on a distant planet fighting ugly aliens, and Rae and Frost get lost in the jungle somewhere, which means, in Rusty's mind, that they're bumping uglies. The main story is still dealing with the Zephyr look-alike murder and whether Krennick had anything to do with it. Krennick is still acting creepy, and Race and Liz find the two girls he has in the dungeon. They're both dead. Uh-oh. Race confronts him, and a new character shows up to surprise them all. It's a nice issue.

Noble Causes has a lot of nice stuff in it. It has built on the series of mini-series over the last year and a half, and some people might be a little lost, but Faerber usually makes it clear what the relationships between everyone is. The one problem I have with the book is that Race should be dead, but it's Faerber's book, so whatever. Again, I don't know how well this book sells, but it's a nice book. It might have a better chance since it's published by Image, but I don't know. Give it a try! Maybe it is worth $3.50!

Ocean #1 by Warren Ellis, Chris Sprouse, and Karl Story
$2.95, Wildstorm

Just last week I said Ellis didn't usually go for "decompressed" storytelling, even though he claims to have invented the technique. Read some of his three-issue mini-series like Reload, read Global Frequency, read the early issues of Planetary (yes, later it became much more slow-moving). He knows how to get a story going. Then came Ultimate Nightmare. Now we get Ocean.

Man, it's frustrating. Great idea. Really. Ellis loves sci-fi, and this is a really neat idea. But that's all it is. This is a 6-issue mini-series, and I will bet it could get done in 4. I mean, 14 panels (over 4 pages) to get Nathan Kane in the air. Three panels for him to finish his coffee (or whatever it is) and throw the cup away. Arrrrggggghhhh!!!!

Nate Kane is some kind of United Nations weapons inspector (Ellis really likes the U.N. -- see his issues of StormWatch) who is sent to Europa (that's a moon of Jupiter, by the way) to investigate the creepy thing explorers found in the ocean covering its surface. It's a very cool idea, as I said, even though Arthur C. Clarke used Europa as his "second Earth" in 2010, so it's not the most unique one (although what idea is unique?). Nate Kane (or Jackson King from StormWatch, or Ultimate Nick Fury -- they're the same character!) is being stalked by a mysterious group, but he's a tough guy and can take care of himself. All the pieces are in place, but why oh why does it take so long?

It's a beautiful book. Sprouse's art has improved every time I see it, and it's really nice here. I'm going to keep buying it, because I know Ellis will deliver, but man -- what's going on with this molasses-like storytelling????

Small Gods #4 by Jason Rand and Juan E. Ferreyra
$2.95, Image

What's up with Image? I never bought their books back in the day when they started, because the books looked like crap, and apparently were. Now they publish some really neat books, and might be my favorite publisher. This week we have Noble Causes and Small Gods, and they also publish Rex Mundi (my favorite book), Forsaken, which has started well, Hawaiian Dick, Waterloo Sunset, The Gift -- very interesting books, and well worth a look. Small Gods is about a cop who happens to be a telepath, which is illegal in this book. A perp (I can talk cop-speak with the best of them!) finds out, and threatens to sue everyone. The cops have to decide if they want to kill him.

That's the premise of the first storyline, of which this is the ultimate issue (I hate that Marvel doesn't know what "ultimate" means, even though they know what "penultimate" means). Owen has to decide whether to kill punk Jerry Ferrell, or allow his partner John to do it for him. He also has to make amends with his girlfriend Dani (he does) and decide whether to tell her he boinked fellow detective Jodi when Dani split from him after she found out he was telepathic (he doesn't -- he's a guy, after all -- and he'd probably say they were on a break!). A lot going on, a nice change of pace from, say, Ocean. He comes up with a nice solution to his problem, and Rand sets the stage for more bad things in both his professional life and personal life.

The art is very nice. Black and white suits this book, and the shading in gray is done well. The view of Jerry tied to his chair after Owen does what he does to him is a very cool shot, and all the characters have distinctive and realistic looks. It's a nice-looking book.

Small Gods has rapidly become one of my favorites. I know, I like all the books I buy, because I wouldn't buy them otherwise, but this is near the top of the list. Check it out.

Well, that's it. I'll be back with more next week.

nusquam tuta fides!