Delenda Est Carthago

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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!

24.2.05

Comics for 23 February 2005

Well, it's another week, and so I must tell you what you ought to be buying and why you should be buying it instead of giving your hard-earned money to, I don't know, The Outsiders or Nightwing or X-23.

Since Grant Morrison came out with a new book this week (see below, I must say I can't freakin' believe I forgot Flex Mentallo on my list of 100 Things I Love About Comics. So pretty. So weird. So brilliant.

Black Widow #6 by Richard K. Morgan, Goran Parlov, and Bill Sienkiewicz
$2.99, Marvel

Black Widow comes to a close inconclusively, which is kind of annoying, even though it promises a "Volume 2," also written by Morgan. It's the same tactic Ellis uses in Ultimate Nightmare (see below), and I don't like it only because if they promise a mini-series, they should deliver a mini-series. If you want Natasha to go on as an ongoing series, fine, but at least wrap things up here and then come up with a new plot for an ongoing!

Anyway, this is a nice series and a nice ending, with the retconning of Natasha's past taking an interesting turn, as we learn some keen things about her relationship with Nick Fury. We also get Kestrel's lesbianism coming back to bite her employers in the ass (so to speak), but it was still nice to see a lesbian handled rather well in this comic (especially with what happened to Northstar). Morgan doesn't make a big thing about it, and the scandal that envelopes Kestrel is not only about her being a lesbian, but is something that could conceivably happen to a straight person as well. Anyway, it's fine. The story has a ring of truth to it in that it's unseemly and ultimately idiotic and sad, but realistic in that I can believe people are willing to kill for such a hollow thing. And Natasha kicks ass.

I've always liked Black Widow and I'm glad she's getting some work -- I want to see who the artist is on the next series, because Sienkiewicz, even when he's just finishing Pavlov's layouts, as he does this issue, is a very good match for Natasha (Greg Land, who does covers, is less so -- they're beautiful covers, but Natasha is not as glamorous as he's made her). I'll be looking out for the next series, because this one was a good one.

Containment #2 by Eric Red and Nick Stakal
$3.99, IDW

Man, four dollars is a lot to pay for this, especially because IDW has 1) taken to putting short prose pieces at the end of their issues, which is an interesting idea, but when all the stories are about vampires, just give it a rest!; 2) GrimJack also came out this week (from the same publisher), and although they're both 22 pages, Ostrander's story feels much more packed than this one. However, this continues to be a nice little story, even though it rips off Alien, right down to Trumbo cast in the Paul Reiser role from the second movie. I suppose that was inevitable, though -- not everyone can be nice when your crewmates have turned into zombies! We get a nice explanation for why half the crew is now mad for brains, and the art does an excellent job at showing the claustrophobia and dankness of the space ship, but I think this would read better in trade paperback. It's a decent enough book, but man -- 4 dollars!

Dr. Blink: Superhero Shrink #1 by John Kovalic and Christopher Jones
$2.99, Dork Storm

This is the first of two laugh-out-loud funny books I bought this week, and it makes me wish more books were funny (yes, Giffen, DeMatteis, Maguire, Rubinstein, and Lappan bring it to you, but that's on a limited basis -- funny comic books don't seem to last -- see The Heckler, Major Bummer -- why is that -- do people not like to laugh?). Phew. That was a long aside. Anyway, Dr. Blink is a funny book. No, it's not particularly deep, and for 3 dollars, it's not particularly long, but what the hell -- it's funny. You know it's funny from the cover, where Dr. Blink is looking out the window where his patient, Major Amazing, is on the ledge threatening to jump, and the good doctor is saying, "This would concern me more if you couldn't fly, you know ..."

Anyway, it's funny. Major Amazing has a death wish, but he's invulnerable. The good doctor tries to give him a reason to live, but since he's not only invulnerable, he's apparently been alive for millennia, he's can't stand life. The doctor has to figure out what's wrong with him, because he doesn't believe he's suicidal. Everything works out in the end, with a nice gag.

Like I said, it's funny, and I don't want to give the jokes away. However, it's fun to give a tease, like the meeting of "The Avenging Legion of Titan Justice Defenders Society of America League!" Actually, it's the re-naming sub-committee meeting, since they're a little upset that they outsourced the job of naming the group to a super-chimp. More hilarity ensues. The only problem I have with the jokes is that Kovalic feels the need to explain Major Amazing's discovery of "the only weapon in the entire cosmos that can actually kill" him -- he calls it the MacGuffin Gun, and that's funny, but like the man said, if you have to explain a joke, it's not funny, and Kovalic explains it. Oh well. This is a funny book, with nice and goofy art by Jones that is somewhat reminiscent of Oeming's on Powers. Check it out if you want a nice chuckle.

Fade From Grace #4 by Gabriel Benson and Jeff Amano
$1.99, Beckett

This issue came out of few weeks ago, but I just got it (and many thanks to Guy LeCharles Gonzalez for reviewing it so I realized I missed it) and so I will pass on to you, all 3 of my readers, a brief review. Really, if you're not buying a book that retails for $1.99 and has a sweet story, fine art, and the kind of innocent, do-it-because-it's-the-right-thing-to-do superheroics that sucked us all into comics in the first place, I can't help you. That being said, this is a nice issue, although I wish more had happened. Grace gets kidnapped by shadowy bad guys and John rescues her. That's it. It's a cool car chase, and John does learn something disturbing about his power, but it's basically John rescuing Grace. Next issue is, according to the last page, the final issue, and that's a shame, unless that's the way it was supposed to be. Beckett is trying to give the comic-reading public a cheaper option, and I would be sad if they went the way of CrossGen. We'll see. Pick this issue up cheap and see if it's for you! There's really nothing to lose!

GrimJack: Killer Instinct #2 by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman

More fun stuff from the minds of Ostrander and Truman. This is a swell book, packed with action and fun and again, you need know nothing about John Gaunt's history to enjoy it (although, as I was reading some reviews of it, you can enjoy it on another level if you have some knowledge of his history). It begins with a long chase scene, as Jack and Fangs (whose real name is Josephine Chaney, by the way) try to escape the Wraiths that thwarted the assassination attempt last issue, and they zip around Cynosure, showing us all the bizarre parts of the trans-dimensional city. When they escape, they get chewed out by their boss, get suspended, and then Fangs gets Jack to train her. This leads, inevitably, to the sex (come on, once he escaped with a woman, you knew it was coming!). It sounds like a cliched cop drama, and sure, the cliches are there, but Ostrander obviously has such a good grasp of the characters and the setting that we don't mind the cliches -- in fact, this is one book when the cliches might help, because we're reading a rollicking adventure, and we know the formula and are comfortable with it. Ostrander often rises above the formula, even in GrimJack, but for this mini-series, it's fine. Truman's art is fabulous, showing all the grimy and interesting sections of the city, and Gaunt is sufficiently hard-edged. This is a fun book, and actually worth the 4 dollars.

Seven Soldiers of Victory #0 by Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III
$2.95, DC

If you're a fan of comics, you are probably buying this already, and if you don't, you should have your "geek card" revoked. This is Morrison in his element, playing with forgotten corners of the DC Universe and creating characters (I think) that fit in well with the crazy tradition of said universe. Some of his familiar themes are back in this "prologue" to the massive undertaking he's, well, undertaking over the next year or so (is that Oubliette from Marvel Girl? sure looks like it), but Morrison is so good at this sort of thing that it doesn't matter. Of all the great comic book writers, Morrison is, I think, the best at taking utterly madcap ideas and making them work. Here has Slaughter Swamp and references to Solomon Grundy, a tiny little man riding a mosquito, and a new comics conspiracy -- all in the first few pages. We move on to another familiar theme, that of secret identities and what they really mean, and then, of course, the wackiness of Morrison superheroes -- Gimmix, who tells stories about when she ran into Aquaman (Laura Gjovaag wishes she were Gimmix!), Blue Boy, who has a ghost suit that makes him "lighter than air or harder than diamond," and Dyno-Mite Dan, who is described as a "hero-vestite." These wacky heroes are brought together to fight a giant spider, and things don't go as planned. Another thing I've always liked about Morrison is his utter ruthlessness when dealing with his (fictional) characters. He likes them, but he has no compunction about using them to fit the story. (That's probably why his love affair with Emma Frost was so vexing -- I was amazed he had the stones to kill her, but then he freakin' brought her back!) But back to Seven Soldiers: this just sets the stage for Morrison's 7 4-issue mini-series about the 7 Soldiers of Victory. This is going to rock, I can tell.

Williams' art is unbelievably gorgeous. Before he did Promethea, he was just a pretty good artist. Now, he's one of the best in the business. This is a beautiful book to look at, as he switches styles for the various settings, and when the gods attack (just read the book, all right!), he draws a double-paged spread that is violent, beautiful, stirring, and sad all in one. Words fail me.

Buy it. Oh, you already have? Good.

Small Gods #7 by Jason Rand and Juan Ferreyra
$2.50, Image

I really like this book. It's very nice to look at, it's in black and white, which I think helps it a lot, and it has some intriguing stories that don't appear to be much on the surface, but really get under your skin. This story, about Bobby Pope and how he witnessed a massacre of drug dealers by crooked cops and has to go on the lam, is an example: it's a standard noir kind of story, but it works because of the fact that Rand has obviously thought about this world he's created, one in which telepaths, psychics, and those sorts of people are common and accepted, and also, that these people wouldn't necessarily be superheroes, they would just be people who try to get a little extra in life. That's Pope -- he's not a bad guy, but he's not really a good guy either. He can be nice, but he can be a jerk, and he's just looking to get by in life. It's a good, noir story (I know, I wrote noir twice in one review) that hold up because of the characters and the look, which is why any noir story holds up. I read a review somewhere that had some issues with Lucy's breasts in the issue, and so do I. She has painted-on clothes on for most of the issue, and then, after sex with Bobby, she's sitting around naked, but the Ferreyra places her arms and other stuff across her breasts so we don't (God forbid) see nipple (remember how funny the first Austin Powers movie was, especially when they satirized this convention?). Now, there's quite a bit of cursing in Small Gods, and it ships code-less. I remember an old letter to some Vertigo title: you have a Mature Readers label: use it. Why can we have cursing in Small Gods and not nipples? It's a mystery. Either put Lucy in some clothes or show her in all her glory. Deliberately hiding her nipples distracts us even more, because we keep saying "Those breasts are weirdly shaped if you don't see a nipple there!" Anyway, that's my nipple rant. No, I'm not a dirty old man. Moving on ...

Ultimate Nightmare #5 by Warren Ellis, Trevor Hairsine, and Nelson (or DeCastro)
$2.25, Marvel

Well, that was an excruciatingly long wait for what is just the first of three mini-series, all dealing with the strange, evil, ridiculously powerful threat from the stars (news flash: it's Galactus). It's fine, I suppose, although this is why, if you like Warren Ellis, you need to read Ocean, or Planetary, or this new Desolation Jones, or his mini-series for Avatar, because with this Ultimate stuff, it's frustrating to see his talent being held in check by either his unwillingness to really go nuts with an established franchise, or Marvel's unwillingness to allow him to go nuts with an established franchise. Gee, the Ultimates fight the X-Men! Why, exactly? Gee, Captain American fights Captain Crazy Soviet, and kicks his ass. Gee, Ultimate Vision tells of the coming of the "uncreator antimessiah poison wave universal endbringer Gah Lak Tus." Haven't we seen that before? Sigh. Since I'm a sucker, I'll probably buy Ultimate Secret, especially because McNiven's art is excellent, but this is just an okay book, nothing special. And any mini-series that ships late ... that's just inexcusable. I still don't know why companies don't wait until all the books are at least drawn before soliciting them. Not only was this late, Hairsine didn't even draw the whole thing. At least McNiven should have a healthy head start, as his series was supposed to be out at least a month ago.

X-Men #167 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki
$2.25, Marvel

This deepens the "Golgotha" mystery a little bit, and it's a better issue than last time, but I still have some problems with it. The art is still too freakin' dark. There's still way too much being left unexplained. I'm all for mysteries, but when plot points are plopped down in the middle of the story as if we've already seen them (like what the heck's going on in Los Angeles? did I miss something?), I get peeved. I actually really like what's going on in Los Angeles, but I felt I had missed an issue, and I know I didn't. I also like how the X-Men seem to jet anywhere they want in a matter of seconds -- they're in Antarctica! they're in Israel! they're in Salem Center! Anyway. Milligan has a nice grasp of the characters, and he's got some more character development this issue, and the big monster is sufficiently weird and creepy, and that's part of the mystery I don't mind waiting for. Larocca's art is beautiful, if a little dark, and I always like a strange little religious tale. It's part one of five (par for the course these days in the Marvel U.), so I'm sticking around at least that long.

I also bought a couple of trade paperbacks this week, both worth a look. The first is Skizz, Alan Moore and Jim Baikie's tale of a stranded alien on Earth and his friends' efforts to keep him from being taken by the government. This came out in the classic comics magazine 2000AD in 1983, and it's a fun story, another example of a good writer taking something that is familiar and transcending the cliches. In this case, showing how alien not only Skizz is to Earthlings, not only how alien we are to him, but how alien different classes of people are to each other, and how alien different generations are to each other. It's well done, with decent art by Baikie.

The other book I bought is the other hilarious one, and that's Scurvy Dogs by Andrew Boyd and Ryan Yount (published by Ait/Planet Lar), which is only 13 dollars and a real treat. It's about modern-day pirates who are dealing with, well, modern-day problems, such as the fact that there's not much to pillage these days and they need to get jobs. As Adam Beechen says in his introduction, many people said about this book "I laughed so hard I wet myself," and although I have better bowel control than those people, it was close. The art is rough but serviceable, and the stories are slight, but really funny. For instance, one of the pirates gets a job at a dentist's office, because not only is he acquainted with scurvy, he also brought his own hook (on the end of his arm). Blackbeard the pirate had a falling-out with his brother, Bluebeard, because Bluebeard is of the opinion that Anson Williams (yes, Potsie) is really under-appreciated as an actor. There's even a mini-crossover with Vampirella. It's really freakin' funny, and you owe it to yourself to run out and buy it. That is all.

Next: hell, I don't know. I don't plan these things all that well!

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a minute here!! You condemn comic readers for buying Outsiders and Nightwing and in the same breath ADMIT to buying Black Widow and Ultimate Nightmare? Wow. Marvel must have you on a short leash.

24/2/05 10:37 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Yeah, I'm a sucker in so many ways. At least I admit it. And let's face it, Sienkiewicz and Ellis have a better pedigree than Winnick and McDaniel. I wallow in my hypocrisy!

25/2/05 9:14 AM  
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