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!

Name:
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!

10.12.04

Comics for 8 December 2004

Tough week. I have a lot to say about Barry Bonds, but I haven't found the time. Maybe this weekend. In the meantime, here's what was in my box this week.

Angeltown #2 by Gary Phillips and Shawn Martinbrough
$2.95, DC/Vertigo

I wasn't sure if I was going to get issue 2 of this mini-series, but I decided to go for it -- what the hell, it's only money. I'm glad I did, because the mystery deepens in this issue (as it should) and becomes more interesting. Phillips is still not breaking any new ground, but he keeps all his balls in the air well, so it's a pretty good read. Hollis continues to dig into the murder, he beats up some more thugs, the lesbian bounty hunter gets information from a cheerleader, and we learn some interesting things about Monica Orozco. There are lots of characters here, and it's tough to keep them straight, but Phillips keeps things humming along nicely. This is a rare book in that it doesn't feel padded to fill out five issues. There's a lot going on.

The draw for me is still Martinbrough's art. It's rough and dark and although all the women have large breasts, they still look real and different from each other. The darkness feels palpable, and although part of the theme of the book is the dark underbelly of the City of Angels, Phillips wouldn't be able to pull that off without Martinbrough. It adds a lot to the book.

We'll see if the mystery continues to play out in a satisfying manner. I guess I'm on board for the whole story, so I hope Phillips can make it worthwhile!

Fables #32 by Blll Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.50, DC/Vertigo

It's really astonishing how good a writer Bill Willingham is, since he originally made his name as an artist and, as far as I know, didn't write anything on a consistent basis until Fables. To see his art, buy the first five issues of Elementals (the series goes downhill quickly after that, but the first five are excellent) or Justice League Annual #2 (from 1987 or '88). They're pretty cheap. I don't know why he doesn't do art anymore, but it would be neat to see him do a guest issue on Fables.

Anyway, this continues to be the best book out there that comes out on a regular basis (sorry, Rex Mundi and Planetary), and this issue continues to ratchet up the tension. I like books like this, because even when Willingham is simply building the tension in a multi-part story (for the inevitable trade paperback), lots of things are happening. He's not just padding to fill a long story, he's actually setting up a lot of stuff. Prince Charming is beset by protesters who are a bit put out by the fact that he hasn't been keeping his campaign promises. Everyone's still wondering what Boy Blue is doing. One of Bluebeard's treasure rooms is missing. Some old guy is killed by an invisible foe (I won't give away who he is, because it's kind of neat). On the farm, Snow White receives a note from the old witch (Frau Totenkinder, a very funny play on words) about her children, and a visitor arrives at the end of the issue, which surely will cause more problems. Lots going on.

I don't really want to say much more, because this is just such an involved and interesting book. Buckingham continues to impress with his artwork, and Willingham, as usual, is in total control of everything. The last thing I should mention is James Jean's beautiful cover. He's been doing the covers for a while, and they're stunning. I only mention it because Wizard magazine named Michael Turner best cover artist of 2004. That's just crap. Anyway, Fables continues to shine.

Noble Causes #5 by Jay Faerber and Fran Bueno
$3.50, Image

This was kind of a surprise, since the last issue just came out, but what the hell. This wraps up the whole murder story, and it's a fine conclusion, I guess, but it's not really the book's strength. I mean, sure, you need action and intrigue, but this book is more about the soap opera stuff going on, and Faerber pulls a weird surprise in that region out of his butt at the end, which I wish had been telegraphed a little more, because it seems to come, well, out of his butt. So anyway, the murder mystery is solved, we learn some more interesting things about Cosmic Rae, Doc is still going through some problems, and Invincible guest stars. It's kind of gratuitous, and I don't like it. I suppose if it helps sales, fine, but I doubt if Invincible is blowing away everyone on sales in its own right, and here, it's just a weird scene. It doesn't ruin the book, but it's a bit strange.

It's an okay issue, but, as usual, it's tough to buy it because of the price. I'm going to buy it for a while, but unless it starts blowing me away, I may drop it. It's sad, because it's a nice book, but it just costs a lot.

Rising Stars #23 by J. Michael Straczynski and Brent Anderson
$2.99, Image (through Top Cow and Joe's Comics -- so many imprints!)

The penultimate issue of the series is nicely done, if a little by-the-numbers. There are many portents, and deadly serious dialogue, and smoke-filled rooms (I'm totally not kidding; it's like JMS pulled his bad guys out of the 1950s). However, it's still good reading, and JMS manages to pull of a surprise at the end when we're sure we know what's coming. I won't give away much more of the story. The art is better than last issue, because the heaviness of Anderson's art is more relevant to this issue than last. There's some interesting political stuff here (not as well done as Ex Machina, but not bad), but JMS's attempts to make the bad guys justify themselves is kind of lame. I know he doesn't agree with them, but their reasons are kind of stupid, and it's difficult to believe everyone going along with it. It's still a good issue. We knew from the beginning of the series that it wouldn't end well, and the shit hits the fan now. Next time, I feel that things will get worse. I'm just psychic that way.

Samurai: Heaven and Earth #1 by Ron Marz and Luke Ross
$2.99, Dark Horse

As Marz puts it in the book, the world really needs a comic book about a Japanese warrior traveling in Europe, written by an American and drawn by a Brazilian. He's joking, but he has a point. More comics should be like this, simply because it's not just another spandex and steroid superhero comic. This is a wonderful book, and it's something everyone should pick up.

Marz is probably most famous for turning Hal Jordan into a mass murderer, which is kind of a shame. I always liked those three issues, but that's neither here nor there. He's been a good writer for a long time. Here, he sets up a nice story, which takes place in Japan in 1704 and involves a Chinese invasion. I don't know if the Chinese were invading Japan in 1704, but I don't care, because the situation rings true. We have a noble samurai and a siege that the Japanese know will end badly, and although samurai are supposed to die nobly in the service of their lord, through a twist of fate, the samurai (Shiro) survives and undertakes a mission to save the love of his life, the Lady Yoshiko, who has been taken by the Chinese. It's a nice story, and Marz brings a strange time and place to life through his dialogue.

The art is spectacular. I can't recall seeing Ross's art before (and I'm surprised he's Brazilian, because that's not a Brazilian name), but I look forward to seeing the rest of this series. His battle scenes are brutal and beautiful, and the Japanese fortress prior to the battle is rendered in fabulous detail, showing the interesting dichotomy in the Japan of the shoguns -- violent men with a great appreciation of delicate art. It's a gorgeous book. Ross even does a nice job distinguishing between the Japanese and the Chinese, for those racist people who think they all look alike. It's stunning.

Dark Horse has apparently given up on ongoing series in favor of mini-series. That's fine, as long as the quality is this good. This is an excellent beginning to what I hope will be a great mini-series.

X-Men: The End Book One: Dreamers and Demons #6 by Chris Claremont, Sean Chen, and Sandu Florea
$2.99, Marvel

It's over, and I can rest. For those who thought Claremont hit his nadir with Sovereign Seven or his brief second run on X-Men, I give you X-Men: The End. I don't even want to review this. It makes me sad to think that the man who gave us Rogue and Wolverine together in Japan wrote this.

Anyway, people we don't know or don't care about die (Annie the Armenian nurse's kid and Wolfsbane, for instance), as Stryfe, Genesis, and Madelyne Pryor wreak havoc on the X-mansion. Who cares? The only interesting thing in the book (and it's not that interesting, just more interesting than the rest) is when Madelyne screams that she's Scott's wife, and he promised to love her forever. It's a nice touch, although you can't really blame Scott for moving on, since Madelyne's supposed to be dead (although I guess he should have guessed she'd come back to life -- it's the X-Men, after all!). At the end, things blow up, and we set up the (sigh) next 6-issue mini-series. I won't be there. It's sad.