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 12 January 2005

I know so many people get their semi-daily dose of righteous indignation from this blog, so I apologize for the lackluster showing recently. The Demon Child (my lovely daughter) is taking up a lot of my time. I'll explain soon. Meanwhile, I still want to get my thoughts out about comics, so here's this week's batch.

Angel Stomp Future #1 by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp
$3.50, Apparat/Avatar

All four Apparat books by Ellis were supposed to be out in the same week, but that didn't happen. The first two were released and I told you about them here and here. This week we get the last two.

Angel Stomp Future is the first (the title is explained in the book, fret not). It's also the weakest. Not for the art, which is stunning, even in black and white. It reminds me most of Geoff Darrow's art in Hard Boiled, and visionary piece of graphic literature. The details of Ryp's work are difficult to believe, as he gives us a standard yet deeply troubling dystopian vision of the future. So much is in the background that it takes a while to get through this book (not that there's anything wrong with that) while you look at it all. Take the mating robots in one panel, or the alligators in the sidewalk, or the guy carrying a pig. It's breathtaking.

Ellis's story is what lets us all down. It's not actually a story, anyway, it's just Ellis being didactic about his favorite subjects, specifically memes. The main character, Angel Antimony, walks around town telling us about the difference between genes and memes, and it's all very dull. It's just Ellis telling us what cool things he's thinking about without actually sitting down and coming up with a story around it. Because it's Ellis, it doesn't totally suck, and there's actually a poignant moment near the end, but it's not much to write home about. I'm sure very few people are buying these comics (which is a shame), but if you're thinking about buying any, buy this only for the art.

Angeltown #3 by Gary Phillips and Shawn Martinbrough
$2.95, DC/Vertigo

I'm along for the ride on this one, since it's only five issue (I'm a sucker, I know), but it's not thrilling. It's perfectly decent, but it feels like it should have been a graphic novel, like Selina's Big Score. Maybe then it would move a little faster and I would be more involved and I would be able to keep track of everyone. At a monthly pace, it's just not working for me. Nothing really happens in this issue. Everyone's still looking for Theophus Burnett, and we learn more dirty sex things that people like to do, and we learn that Burnett's aunt might be part of the whole thing, and Nate has an "open" relationship with more than one woman, and he gets a chili dog in one of the most useless pages in comics history (I kept waiting for his stop for a chili dog to tie in somehow to the rest of the story -- I hope it does, because if it doesn't, it is inexplicable why we see him eating a chili dog for an entire page). Like I said, nothing much happens. I want to see if, when the series is done, if I can read this without this issue and still get the entire scope of the series. Somehow I think I will be able to.

The Ballad of Sleeping Beauty #6 by Gabriel Benson and Mike Hawthorne
$1.99, Beckett

This issue speeds along to what almost feels like a penultimate issue, which makes me wonder if the series has been cancelled. I mean, we have a confrontation last issue and people die, and suddenly, we're in the village where Sleeping Beauty is and things seem to be wrapping up. It feels way too rushed -- first Cole is incapacitated by a mysterious Indian, about whom we learn nothing, then Red gets to see Beauty, and then, on the last two pages, something weird happens that I can't really explain (not because it will give anything away, but because I don't get it). I like this comic, and I wish more people were buying it (it's TWO DOLLARS, people!), but I really wonder if it's wrapping up. It feels rushed. I look forward to next issue, because I want to know what's happening, but I have a feeling it might be the last one.

Gorgeous cover, by the way.

Fables #33 by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha
$2.50, DC/Vertigo

This is the last issue of a storyline, which took me by surprise, because it also feels a little rushed. It's still a pretty good issue, but things moved kind of quickly to a conclusion, and it's not like Willingham hasn't set up stuff for future issues. It's just a little weird.

We find out who the killer is. It's a little too easy, but it does explain a weird statement made some issues ago, which I hoped would be explained. I wondered why the Fables accepted Bigby's father so readily, and I fear he will cause difficulties in the future, but for now, it's strange. We get more of the problems with the new regime, which is nice, and it sets up the next story. In all, it feels like a transitional issue, even though the murder mystery (which, after all, wasn't that important) is solved. Bigby's dad calls a gust of wind a zephyr, which is the west wind. I know the other three winds have names, and it would be nice to see one of them. Everyone knows what a zephyr is!!!!

Gorgeous cover, by the way. Really pretty.

Hero Squared X-Tra Sized Special* by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and Joe Abraham
$3.99, Atomeka
* "Because an 'X' on the cover never hurts," as the cover says

I try not to read reviews of comics before I do my reviews, because I don't want to be influenced by them, but I read one for this yesterday, and I'd like to address what the reviewer wondered about, namely, how the authors feel about superheroes. I don't really believe that Giffen and DeMatteis have contempt for the superhero genre, but I do think they recognize the inherent silliness in it, which makes their satire of the genre since Justice League funny. This issue is typical of that. Captain Valor is a superhero who gets shifted to another dimension after his arch-nemesis takes over the world, and he meets his alternate ego, who is not a superhero Much of the issue, unfortunately, is taken up establishing what a loser Milo is and how he doesn't believe Captain Valor is actually his doppelganger from another universe. So when the action comes, it's quick, and the secret at the end will come as a shock to absolutely no one. However, that's not really the point, is it? The point is Giffen and DeMatteis (who, if you believe the first JL trade paperback, writes the jokes) riffing on superheroes while we wait for their arc on JLA: Classified to come out. With that said, this isn't really worth it. They're actually better on the DC stuff, maybe because they have more characters to work with and can maintain a manic energy, and also because the personalities of established heroes works better when they subvert it (just think about Batman cracking jokes in Formerly Known as the Justice League -- in this issue, Captain Valor has to tell us he has no sense of humor). Just keep waiting for their new work with Blue Beetle and Booster Gold and Fire and Mary Marvel and (sniff) Sue Dibny.

The Pulse #7 by Brian Michael Bendis and Brent Anderson
$2.99, Marvel

Boy, that's a cool Steranko-esque cover. Really cool. Comics should be more visually stunning, because art is, after all, a major part of it. And no, I don't mean we need more Greg Land cheesecake covers (although they're beautiful). We need more covers like this one. It just makes you want to pick the book up.

Anderson's interior art is okay. It's kind of sludgy, which works for the most part in this story, since everything's kind of muddled, but Jessica looks bizarre -- Anderson puts her in some weird poses, and for the rest of the issue, she looks ... bizarre. I can't explain it, but it's off. Other than that, the art's fine.

This is "Secret War," part 2, and I guess it is tied into the five-issue mini-series that started, apparently, eight years ago and has yet to reach a fourth issue. Jessica spends the issue trying to figure out what happened last issue. No one's around! Luke Cage is gone, and now Jessica can't find Danny Rand or Misty Knight or Matt Murdock. She and Ben Urich wander around piecing things together, and then Jessica finds something out about Nick Fury and SHIELD that makes perfect sense. Bendis, who has taken over the Marvel Universe, often writes crap, but this is an example of why Marvel allowed him to take over the company in the first place. It's a nice issue that slowly builds suspense yet never feels like he's just treading water. There's even (gasp!) some social commentary!

Simon Spector #1 by Warren Ellis and Jacen Burrows
$3.50, Apparat/Avatar

Simon Spector is Ellis's version of guys like The Shadow and Doc Savage and The Spider, pulp heroes from the years before superheroes. So there's strange drugs giving great powers, a woman in distress, and a big fight. Nothing terribly groundbreaking, nothing terribly shocking, but good solid storytelling. Simon gets some freaky powers when he ingests his exotic drug, and it's nicely written out by Ellis. The fight scene is rendered beautifully by Burrows, whose lack of mainstream recognition continues to baffle me (unless he doesn't want it). It's a good comic.

Apparat was Ellis's grand experiment of writing comics as if superheroes weren't the dominant paradigm in comics. It's a nice idea, and it's kind of sad that Ellis needs to go back to mainstream stuff to make a living. This is where he belongs -- doing weird crap like this and introducing us to new artists (whether I like them or not). Ellis is trying, singlehandedly, to drag comics to a new level, and I applaud his efforts even if I don't always like his work (it's rare, but it happens). Go buy one of these issues if you don't want to drop $3.50 each on all four.

Two Bits #1
$.25, Image

This is a black-and-white flip book with previews of two new Image series -- The Imaginaries and Lullaby. I wish more companies did this. Marvel and DC did it a few times with Daredevil and Batman and some others, but I wish they would do it with upcoming comics. I don't know if I'm going to buy either of these books, but it's nice to check them out.

Lullaby is about a girl who ends up in a land where fairy tales are alive. Yes, it's a bit of a rip-off of Fables, but who cares? She rises in the service of the Queen of Hearts and decides to go searching for her parents, whom she remembers only as if from a dream. The art, by Hector Sevilla, is dazzling and kind of manga-esque, and I don't like the fact that the girl is flashing her midriff, since Image is marketing this as an all-ages book, but oh well. I want to see the colored pages, but it's kind of intriguing.

The Imaginaries is something I doubt I'll be buying. It's an okay concept -- where do imaginary friends go when kids throw them out -- but it's just not thrilling me. It looks okay, and could have a potential for some funny stuff, but I doubt it. The main character is a superhero who gets thrown away and must disguise himself as a reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper (Clark Kent, just like Superman, is an archetype) and has to adjust to the fact that his creator threw him away. If this sounds like your thing, check this book out in March. Like I said, this is a nice thing for companies to do. It's just another reason that Image might be the best publisher out there right now.

The Ultimates Vol. 2 #2 by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, and Paul Neary
$2.99, Marvel

Well, it has Captain Britain, who is still related to Psylocke in the Ultimate Universe, even though she's dead. Natasha's a bitch. A total bitch. Boy, I don't like her. Unless she's joking. Captain America's a jerk. Not a total jerk, because he actually uses his head before going completely postal, but I wonder -- Millar is trying to make him a more "simple, 1940s-kind of guy," which is nice, but does that mean he's a jerk who doesn't care about due process? I suppose. Thor remains an enigma and the most intriguing thing about the book. Bruce Banner is pretty much guaranteed to get the death penalty. Can't he plead insanity? I wonder.

It's an okay issue, but as usual, it's tough to ratchet up action when you have assembled the most powerful people on the planet and you can't find a threat for them. Millar is setting things up, but I still fear this book will lose steam because Millar's focusing so much on the soap opera aspect of the book -- I read Noble Causes, so I don't need soap opera here. Grant Morrison understood this on JLA, when he threw action at those bozos until the fans were begging him to stop (I wasn't, but some were). Thor is interesting here, but I want ball-and-ass kicking action! That's really what Hitch is born to do! The art, as usual, is beautiful. Why so slow, Hitch????

Non-comics-related posting soon, I promise!


Blogger David Norman said...

Hi Greg, thought I'd return the favour and check out your site. I agree with some of the things you wrote in your earlier posts, but felt too wimpy to post to them. Much easier to comment on the comic post :)

Agree with your appraisal of the comics that I've read as well, particularly Simon Spector, which I thought was great, and it's a shame we won't see more. Also, why HASN'T Jacen Burrows been snapped up by the big two?

When I get my links going, I'll have to put you in; any blog named after a Latin quote deserves it.

20/1/05 11:02 AM  
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5/12/05 12:44 PM  

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