Crap, I bought a lot of comics yesterday. Good thing my New Year resolution wasn't to buy fewer comics. Let's get to it.
Kingdom of the Wicked
by Ian Edginton and D'Israeli
$15.95, Dark Horse Comics
This came out a few weeks ago, and it's a very nice book and the kind of book more companies should put out. Edginton and D'Israeli also did Scarlet Traces
, which came out a while ago and has a sequel showing up soon, and they make a nice team. This is a beautifully done book with a hard cover, and it's the kind of thing I would give to people who don't read comics.
You can get what you need to know about the book from the back. Christopher Grahame is a children's author who's as famous as J.K. Rowling. He once suffered from extreme headaches and blackouts, and he suddenly begins to experience them again. When he blacks out, he finds himself back in Castrovalva, the fantasy world he created when he was a kid. He finds it almost destroyed, however, with teddy bears fighting in World War I trenches and assassins lurking in the supposedly "safe" zones. There's an evil general who is taking over Castrovalva, and Chris is acclaimed as the hero of the story, but he doesn't know what to do about it. Suddenly he's stuck there, and he has to figure out a way to save the world he created and also return to his own world.
This is a wonderful story, although I don't know about the ending. It's a little farfetched, but I suppose it's possible. More important, the story is a fantastic fable about childhood and what it means to be a kid and what it means to grow up. Chris goes on a Grail quest and eventually finds things out about himself and his history. Anyone who ever had an imagination will probably enjoy this, and anyone who believes things were better when they were children may like it too. It's an interesting look at our fantasies and where they go.
The art is beautiful, too. D'Israeli (why does he call himself that?) has done a lot of nice work, and his art is cartoonish without looking goofy. He captures the horror of war nicely, but also the fanciful delicacy of a child's imagined world. He also does well with the "real" world scenes, washing out the colors a little (which is a cliche in comics, but what the hell) but keeping everything grounded.
This is a book that, if you're not a comics fan, you can hunt down and enjoy as a good read. If you are a comics fan, it's something to support that's not standard superhero fare.
Okay, now this week's haul:
#1 by Eric Red and Nick Stakal
I guess this is "Eric Red's Containment
," although why he deserves his name above the title, I don't know. This is a sort-of creepy little horror story set in space (just like Alien
!). It's a four-issue mini-series, so the question is, does it make me want to buy three more issues at four bucks a pop?
Well, sort of. I'll buy the next issue, but we'll see after that. It's an okay issue, with nice rough art that lends itself well to the claustrophobic atmosphere that Red is going for (it would be much cooler if it actually were "Eric the Red"), and it has a nice pace to it that throws the characters relatively quickly into the mess that exists on this spacecraft (which is in year 26 of a 32-year mission to Saturn). Even the pseudo-science works. Still, for a four-dollar book, it's a little flimsy, especially because there's a rather lame vampire short story (with no pictures? you mean I actually have to read it?) at the end. IDW continues to publish some nice stuff, but for the money, there should be more here.
#69 by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
It has been reported that Bendis and Maleev will leave this title this year, which, given this storyline, might be a mixed blessing. It's not like this whole Alexander Bont story is bad, it's just that it's not as interesting as their other stories have been. The art is as spectacular as always, and Bendis still has a great grasp of the characters, but it's going so freakin' slowly that I'm getting annoyed. It's like Bendis, who has decided to chuck any characterization in New Avengers
, has decided to chuck any plot advancement in Daredevil
. Strike a balance, Bendis!
So what do we get? Well, Bont was so strong when he first showed up because he was taking Mutant Growth Hormone. I forgot about MGH, but I'm glad Bendis didn't, because it's a good explanation. We see the dead White Tiger in action, because we're still doing flashbacks to "the 1960s," or whenever Bont was supposed to have been put away. We see, I think, Karen Page. We find out why Melvin Potter is helping Bont kick the snot out of poor little Matt Murdock. And Hector Ayala's niece wants to know why Daredevil does what he does, and he sort of tells her. It's all just ... there. It's not dazzling. It's moving toward a conclusion (that would be next issue), but it doesn't feel terribly consequential. What's the point of this story?
#18 by Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido
So Human Target
has been cancelled
, as of issue #21. Peter Milligan doesn't sound all that disappointed, although I'm sure he can't be terribly happy with it. It's a shame, but at least we those of us who bought it can go back and read the issues. I get depressed when good comics are cancelled, but I'm also happy that they exist. Anyway, this is a stand-alone issue (Milligan writes really good single issues, kind of a lost art these days) about terror suspects and American paranoia after 11 September 2001. Milligan has written a few stories about 9/11, and I wish more mainstream comics writers would tackle it. Of course, there's still only been one movie about the first
Gulf War (and if you haven't seen Three Kings
, why the hell not?), so I'm not holding my breath that we're going to see stories about terrorism and the state of America these days. Anyway, there's a Muslim who is dragged away by three punks who just want to beat up people who look different. Christopher Chance impersonates a Hindu who was attacked by men who were looking for terrorists. The stories come together quickly, and things go pear-shaped soon after ("pear-shaped" means FUBAR, although I don't know why -- are pears inherently bad?). It's a tidy little story that manages to show a lot about the American dream and even throws in some parenting tips! Milligan is not terribly subtle, but he's not trying to be -- he's making a point, and he only has a limited amount of pages to make it. It's still a powerful little story.
I won't mention the art, because I'm not a big fan of Pulido's work on this title. It's okay, but the coloring is bizarre. It's just ... bizarre.
Anyway, only three more issues. I'll be there. Do yourself a favor and buy the last three issues. It's good reading.
#1 by Ovi Nedelcu
I bought Pigtale
because it's set in beautiful Portland, Oregon, and Nedelcu actually uses city landmarks in the book (the Ringlers Annex gets smashed -- oh no!). I will probably buy issue 2, but unless something really cool happens in that issue, I'm not going to keep it up. It's not a bad book, it's just not something that blows me away. The art is very cartoonish and I'm not the biggest fan of that style, but it's a charming story with a weird twist at the end, which is one of the reasons I'm on the fence about this book. The twist was maybe too weird. But that's for next month, I guess.
The story centers around Boston Booth, a down-on-his-luck private investigator who lives with his grandmother. He has the hots for a barrista at the coffee house he frequents, and although he's a goofy yet sweet guy, he actually gets a date with her in the first issue, which is nice. He also shows a knight-in-shining-armor side, which is also nice. Boston's a nice guy, if you haven't guessed.
There's a mystery. It ties into the twist at the end, and I won't go into it now, but like I said, it better take off next issue. It's a charming little book, and I'll see if I keep it after next issue. Oh, Boston rides around on a Vespa, if you like that sort of thing.
Samurai: Heaven and Earth
#2 by Ron Marz and Luke Ross
$2.99, Dark Horse Comics
I read Luke Ross's real name somewhere (he's Brazilian) and I wish I could find it again, because I would use it. There's no need for an Anglicized pseudonym, and I wish he didn't.
Anyway, this series blew me away in the first issue, and it continues to impress. It's still a little short for three dollars, but it packs a lot into its pages. Shiro, who survived the Chinese attack last issue, goes to China to find Yoshiko, who has been taken to Hsiao's harem to be pawed over by the icky Chinaman. Ewww! Good Japanese don't allow that! So he finds out where Hsiao is, sneaks into the harem, resists the sexy charms of all the other scantily clad women Hsiao has locked away, and finds the Chinese warlord and demands his love. Hsiao holds up from ordering his death long enough to tell Shiro that he sold Yoshiko to an Arab slave trader (whom we see in the beginning) because she was uppity. Damn slave women -- what's the world coming to when they don't know their place? Hsiao then bores of their witty repartee and orders his men to kill Shiro. Much carnage ensues. Who do you think is left standing?
This is a really nice book. The art is absolutely beautiful, and the story moves along quickly. Marz doesn't mess around with a lot of characterization, because Shiro is a stereotypical inscrutable Oriental who doesn't indulge in a lot of reflection. He has a job to do, and he does it. It's kind of cool. I'm sure we'll get more throughout the series, but it's nice to see the action just propelling the story even though there's a nice little love story behind it. Just go buy the first two issues. You won't be disappointed.
#6 by Jason Rand and Juan Ferreyra
The story of Bobby Pope, small-time loser but also telepath and empath, continues, as Bobby gets taken along by the crooked cops to a meeting with a bunch of drug dealers. The cops want Bobby to let them know if the bad guys are going to make any false moves. What do you think happens? Sure, the meeting goes to shit, and Bobby makes a run for it. He ends up in a bar, and is accosted by his (probably) ex-girlfriend, who's one tough bitch (we know this from the back-up story). That's it.
is a very good book. The art is moody and gritty and the characters and well defined, and the implications of telepathy in the "real" world continue to play out slowly, which is fine with me. I wonder if we'll see the cops from the first storyline again, or if each story is going to be self-contained, but I guess we'll find out. It's a cool little book.
Clive Barker's The Thief of Always
#1 by Kris Oprisko and Gabriel Hernandez
Okay, it's a lot of money for an adaptation of a book. I've never read the original novel, but I like Clive Barker, and I've always heard good things about this, so I thought I'd pick it up. It's okay, but I'm not sure if it's worth the price, especially when I can just buy the original for less money than this would cost.
Harvey Swick is a bored little boy who yearns to break out of the cage of his existence. One day a Mister Rictus shows up and says he'll take him to Mr. Hood's Holiday House. Harvey goes along, although Rictus is awfully creepy. Maybe Harvey should have asked for some references. Anyway, off they go, and soon Harvey is at the house, which of course has lots a fun rooms and weird corners and places to play. It's technically in the same town where Harvey lives, but of course it isn't. Harvey calls his parents, who are fabulously happy that he made it to the house and let him know that they planned the whole thing. Let me tell you, I'm not buying it. There are two other kids at the house, Wendell and Lulu, and they're both weird in the own ways. Wendell cares nothing about the questions Harvey has about the house, and Lulu seems a little vacant sometimes. Harvey has a grand old time, and he celebrates Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas all in the space of a few days. It's a little kid's dream!
There are weird things, of course. The lake and its fish are weird, as is the fact that no one ever sees Mr. Hood (what is he, Satan?). Harvey sees a strange shadow that looks like a dragon and flies over the house. It's all very mysterious.
I don't know ... it's nice-looking, the art is okay, and it has a childlike quality to it. But man is it spendy!
#2 by Jason Hall and John Watkiss
The second issue moves things along nicely, and I like it. Deirdre, the reporter who wants to nail Ethicorp to the wall, is told that she needs to back off, because, well, her editor has no balls. Carter Lennox, who we saw in a problematic situation at the end of last issue, can't figure out what happened and spends the issue trying to find out what he did. Meanwhile, Vi is having some problems. Isn't everyone? Deirdre is trying to prove the existence of the Triggers, and she gets in a little over her head at the end.
It's tough to review a book like this, since it's all about mysteries. Watkiss's art is magnificent, and the atmosphere of paranoia and oppression that Hall is building is well done, even though we see that it's not as bad as we might think. One of the problems I had with 1984
was trying to envision Orwell's world where people lived normal lives, since they obviously did. It just seemed everyone was lurking around looking over their shoulders. Here, Hall and Watkiss show that the influence of Ethicorp and the Triggers is insidious and not necessarily overt. It's nicely done.
Weird things are going on in this book. I like what I'm reading so far. I'll keep it up for now, and hope the quality stays up.
#1-6 by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones
$2.99, Image/Top Cow
I wanted to like Wanted
. I read the first issue way back when, and now it's finally done (issue #5 came out in September and #4 came out in June). Jones is apparently ridiculously slow, but it's gorgeous, and almost worth the eighteen dollars I spent on it. Almost. However, Millar ruined it. He ruined it all!!!!
Okay, I'm angry. I'm not even just angry, I'm insulted. Millar has built his reputation on in-your-face writing, and he apparently wants to be a rock star. Well, let him go and become one. I won't be along for the ride.
So why am I so angry? Well, Wanted
starts off okay. Wesley Gibson is a loser with a girlfriend who cheats on him with his best friend, a dead-end job with an annoying boss (also female; I'll get to that in a minute), and no hope for a good life. Suddenly he finds out that his father was a super-villain who has been killed, and he stands to inherit millions of dollars if he becomes a super-villain himself. He has to learn how to kill and steal and rape and be an all around unpleasant person. He takes to it with much vigor.
For much of this mini-series, Millar has some interesting takes on the "grim 'n' gritty" trend that overtook comics in 1986 with The Dark Knight Returns
. He has some very nice points to make about comics and the world in general, and also about wasted lives. Gibson is a pathetic loser who needs a kick in the ass to get off his and seize life by the cajones
. We also see lots of analogues of various DC superheroes (I don't think any Marvel ones show up, but I could be wrong -- Wesley himself might be the Punisher) and the story eventually involves a war between the super-villains, which comes off nicely. So there we go.
So why am I so insulted? Well, Millar basically spits on his audience. He writes "God, you're such an asshole, and I speak from experience ... You're killing yourself working twelve-hour days, getting fat on cheap take-out food, and your girlfriend is almost certainly fucking other guys ... Even this comic was just a fifteen minute respite from how hard we're working you ... You're just going to close this book and buy something else to fill that big, empty void we've created in your life ... [turn the page and see Wesley, looking like Eminem, which is apparently deliberate] ... This is my face while I'm fucking you in the ass." End of Book! How cool Millar is!
Well, Mark, you're an asshole. I'm not working twelve-hour days, and my wife is not cheating on me. If you got screwed over by a women, maybe you should look in a mirror. I could even forgive this book's misogyny except for the ending. There are basically three women in this book -- Wesley's girlfriend, who's cheating on him; his boss, who's described as a lesbian; and the Fox, a super-villain who's basically Millar's version of a real man you can also have sex with. Then, to basically call anyone who bought the book that provides his livelihood a loser ... nice work. Well, Mark, I guess I will be a loser no more. I hereby renounce anything written by you. No more Ultimates
, even though I like the book. Sorry, but I don't want to be a loser who sits on his ass reading comics all the time when I could be out ... I don't know, what exactly do you do all day, Mark, except write comics and drink and bitch about how no one loves you because you're an asshole? I wonder. I guess I'll never find out.
It's a shame, really. Millar used to be a talented writer. Some day I will tell you why you should buy his run on Swamp Thing
. Brilliant stuff. But apparently his fans no longer matter to Millar. He's too important. Fuck him.
#3 by Andrew Stephenson and Trevor Goring
I'm going to zip through these last two, because this post is too long. Sheesh, I have to cut some titles I'm buying. This is still a good book, and I think next issue might be the last one (I could find out, but I can't be bothered). Many questions are answered, Esau and Nina go on a Grail quest of their own, and there's some action. This has a lot of potential to be a neglected classic, especially if it ends as strongly as it's been going. Again, it's a mystery why comics fans don't seek things like this out and try something new. Maybe it will be collected in a trade and gain a nice audience.
X-Men #166 by Peter Milligan, Salvador Larroca, and Danny Miki
Holy crap -- a year after I swore off the X-Men, I'm back. Milligan does not have a good track record in "normal" books (Elektra
, anyone? and I don't count X-Force/X-Statix
as a normal book), but I have some faith in him, and I'm willing to see if his initial storyline can impress me. I know Larroca's art is going to be purty, so what's the story like?
It's okay. Enough to get me back next month. Something horrible is happening at a mutant outpost in Antarctica. Something that has to do with something or someone called "Golgotha." Yes, it's all very religious. I'm sure Milligan will take shots at organized religion, because he likes to. Whatever. It's a sufficiently eerie issue, with a strange appearance by Emma Frost at the end, who apparently gets to Antarctica from New York in a matter of minutes. The interplay between the team is fine, but the story is what drives the issue, and it's, like I said, enough to get me back. We'll see. It's better than Austen. It's probably better than Whedon, since from what I've read, Whedon's simply recycling Claremont. Am I wrong?
God, that's a lot of books. I'll have to do some culling in the near future. Be here to see which books make the cut!