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Battle for the Cowl: The Network (One-Shot)

This was interesting: Oracle and what is essentially Bird of Prey II: This Time With Dudes! vs Dr. Hugo Strange, who is setting the new Batman (meaning the Batman who is supposedly Jason Todd but almost certainly isn’t and oh look he’s on the cover of next week’s Battle for the Cowl No. 3 and I don’t think that it’s Jason Todd) up for one of his famous messed-up psychological tests: three kidnapped people (crack mother, old old lady and escaped murderer claiming innocence), two of whom will be killed once the first one is rescued. Also, he’s taking bets on the side.

I liked this. I like the “Oracle with a team of people” dynamic that went away with Birds of Prey (and how long did it take Barbara Gordon to “find herself” anyway? A week?) and there’s a nice sense of the Gotham criminal underground that you don’t often get in Batman stories but that makes sense - why not form a community? Solidarity in the face of oppression!

I feel like bitching about some of the characterization but I’m not awake enough to be the angry nerd yet. Eh, Huntress lost some of the not-psycho calm that she had picked up over in Birds of Prey but at least it fit the story, for what that’s worth. I kind of wish, though, that they’d chosen to play Ragman as the loveable schlub from Shadowpact rather than as the standard creepy supernatural character who calls people “child” and such. Misfit was good, though, and it looks as though her Dark Secret has not been forgotten, so if this spins off into a series of some sort, hopefully she’ll be there.

Groom Lake No. 2

Huh. I skipped the first issue of this because it had a smoking Grey-style alien on the cover and looked like something from a university poster sale, but the partially-skeletonized puff dog on this one managed to pull me in (ag, it's the B cover - why is it so hard to find pictures of B covers? The A cover is even more poster sale). Actually, I’m kind of glad that I did it this way, as the first issue by itself is okay but the first two issues taken as a pair are a pretty decent read.

This is neat. It’s the sort of story that… you know when you have a serious set-up (in this case an X-Files-style alien/government conspiracy) in which most of the cast is playing it serious but then a couple of off-the-wall characters are dropped into the middle and it ends up being funny and plausibly actiony at the same time? This is like that, if skewing toward the funny side of things. Sure, there’s a party-alien, but he has a legitimate reason for being so. If I’d only read the first issue I might’ve complained about some of the characters being too tough and world-weary and attitudey all the time but it actually works quite well to balance out the wacky. Nice writin', Chris Ryall!

And good art, Ben Templesmith! Why are your square-headed women so appealing? Whatever the reason, I like it. All of the characters are super-distinctive and interesting and the colouring job is beautiful and odd.

Oh, and there’s even a decent explanation for alien rectal/genital probing! Finally, my questions have been answered!

Demon Cleaner No. 1

(Written before reading this) I know nothing about this comic - I bought it because books about people fighting demons (see Hellboy, Killer of Demons, etc.) are usually a good time. The Weird Rocky Horror-style lips on the cover are kind of weirding me out.

(Reading…) Hey, this is pretty good! As I figured, the Demon Cleaner is a dude who runs around offing demons who have escaped from Hell and not (as I had secretly hoped) some sort of maid service for the damned. Demons make great villains, by the way, even better than Nazis, as the occasional Nazi can turn out to be just misled, whilst demons are pretty much the definitive bad guys. And they can generally come back again after you kill ‘em, too, which makes for a good antagonistic relationship. Miles Gunter wrote this one and did a good job with his bunch of entertainingly assholey rich people who gathered to eat demons for their medicinal value and (oh the wit) ended up biting off more than they could chew. The demons are pretty good too, especially the one who must inhabit organic matter in order to have a body - look out for the watermelon-demon, aiee!

And it looks real pretty, too. It appears that Antarctic Press is classifying it as a manga but to mine eyes it occupies the same Art Deco-descended niche as Darwyn Cooke’s work on The Spirit. Anyway, it looks nice and the monsters are cool and nicely kinetic. Also, Victor Santos draws a nice skeleton. And! This is two comics in a row with really nice mood-enhancing colouring.

Final Crisis Aftermath: RUN! No. 1 (of 6)

Okay, so my initial reason for reading Battle for the Cowl was a semi-masochistic impulse to take a bad-comic bullet for the LBW team, but that’s not working out because one the whole I’m enjoying them. Therefore, I’m going to read all of the Final Crisis Aftermath books as well. I actually have no idea if they’re going to be good or bad or what - the mess that was Countdown and the other books leading up to Final Crisis (generally - I kind of liked Salvation Run) has left me cynical about this sort of thing but on the other hand I really like the Aftermath focus characters. On the third hand, I liked them as Morrison characters, so I guess we’ll see how well someone else ends up writing them. We’ll call it cautious optimism for now. Anyway, as previously detailed I like the Human Flame, so let’s see how a series about him getting his comeuppance for being the kind of douchebag that films someone’s death on a camera phone goes…


All right! This was exactly what I was hoping for: the misadventures of a total dick. The Human Flame is the most unrepenetant asshole in the DCU, I think. If Sturges and Williams can keep this going for six issues it’ll be a hoot. Basically everyone is after this guy - the heroes, the villains, the Kyrgyzstani Mafia, possibly his tiny daughter - and he just keeps compounding things by acting like a bigger and bigger douchebag. Also: the return of that one uncostumed guy from his debut! Also… is Firestorm a white guy again or was that a colouring error?

Power Girl No. 1

Okay, this was great. Power Girl has had it bad for a while but if this series continues in this vein then she’s in good hands. I bought the cover pictured here and I swear, not for the boobs (though they are impressively colossal). Rather, for that fantastic facial expression and for “It’s okay! Power Girl is here!”, which is pretty much the best catch phrase ever and I hope is employed frequently.

Anyway, good writing job here - Power Girl is forceful without being the cranky-pants that she was in the old days. This Power Girl is no more likely to appreciate Wally West grossly hitting on her than the Justice League Europe version but, I don’t know, wouldn’t be as abrasive about it? Does that make sense? Basically, I like her as a character as much as ever but now I could probably have a conversation with her. Aha! I’ve worked it out: Power Girl now has a sense of humour!

One very good thing about this comic is the reintroduction of PG’s Karen Starr identity. For a while, what with all of the origin revisions and such, it was just one writer after another tearing down aspects of her character: she wasn’t Kryptonian, then she ditched her secret identity, then she was Atlantean for a while and then not Atlantean at all, etc, etc. It’s nice to have her as a cool businesswoman with interesting employees and an apartment and so forth. Also, her insane cat shows up for a couple of panels. Also also, Ultra-Humanite.

Jersey Gods No. 4

Oh man, this is such a good comic. When I read the preview back in... where the heck did I read that preview? in the back of an issue of Invincible, I think. In any case, all I was expecting was a comic about Kirby-esque gods and in-law jokes, which would have been great enough. This, though... Dan McDaid and Glen Brunswick have put together one hell of a comic. It manages to capture that great excessively weird epic quality that Kirby god-stuff had (in Thor or New Gods, take your pick). I mean, it's easy enough to whip off a plot about some ineffable cosmic being with metal gauntlets and dotted powers but hot damn! There's a very cool story taking shape here, with big 'ol flashbacks to the god-history of the past and everything. And the fashion-focused  Earth plot is good too, though I expect that it's going to require some godly intervention soon.

Of course, my absolute favourite part was the meeting of Fusion and Union, who obviously knew who each other were but still felt the need to shout "I am Fusion!" and "I am Union!"

The Zombies that Ate the World No. 3 (of 8) 

You know, at this point there are so many zombie comics floating around that I wouldn't necessarily grab a new one but this has two things going for it right off the bat: a great title and Guy Davis, who draws such pretty pictures that I would be into at least the first issue of anything he cared to put his pen to. Lucky for my easily-led brain, this is an entertainingly weird tale of a world where zombies and humans live together in a weird, dysfunctional society. This issue: focus on the Belgian! Andd I can't find the cover!

Fin Fang 4 Return! (One-Shot)

Okay, so acedemically i know that there are good things going on at marvel Comics that aren't just a portion of some giant crossover. Still, I'm having a hard time shedding my anti-Marvel reactionary stance. Rachelle keeps suggesting stuff, so maybe someday...

This, though... the Marvel Monster Group (or whatever) comics from a few years ago were fantastic, and the Fin Fang Four were the very best. And this? This is a comic to buy and treasure and dig out when you are at your very lowest point and yyou need to remember that the world contains pure unadulterated delight. And the stories inside are arranged by delightfulness! By the time I got  to "How Fin Fang Foom Saved Christmas" I was basically vibrating with joy! Giant monsters and also Wong forever!

Atomic Robo: Shadow From Beyond Time No. 1 (of 5)

I really like coincidences. For instance, I once read a webcomic and it mentioned someone I went to university with and then the next week I realized that the blog I was reading was by the same person's brother and then the next week I found out that she was in Halifax and we went out for Eggs Benedict. How can you not enjoy a world so full of interestingness?

In a far less personal way, I was a fan of both Atomic Robo and 8-Bit Theater before I realized that Brian Clevinger wrote both of them. I guess that "being unobservant" isn''t much in the way of coincidences but still: neat. Atomic Robo is basically the perfect Johnathan comic, except for the absence of forty to sixty years of continuity. Just wait, though.

This new series looks to be just as great as the prior two. It takes place in Atomic Robo's formative years and features both Charles Fort and my old friend H.P. Lovecraft  (in a delightfully frenetic and... Lovecraftian role). One issue in and I'm delighted. I have no doubt that the next four will be just as good (the Free Comic Book Day Atomic Robo was my favourite free comic book of all).

Astro City: Dark Age Book Three No. 1

Ag. This is my last book of the day - I must stop arranging these things by anticipation. If you truely want to know what I think about this after reading it check back on Friday.

(Bah, this edit is happening on Saturday) I love Astro City. Astro City is consistently what a comic book should be. A super-hero comic book, that it. And you might not agree, as is your right (but I will look askance at you). It's like Kurt Busiek sneaks into my room at night and listens to my disjointed sleep-ramblings about my comic-related hopes and dreams and then sneaks home and writes this. Fascinating and still-evolving continuity? Check. Interesting and novel characters with intriguing motivations? Check. A crazy-interesting multi-volume story that is also an extended metaphor for the shifting fates and trends of the super-hero comic book industry? Yep. Unalloyed delight? Double-check.

So this issue features Charles and Royal, the Odd Couple-ish brothers at the heart of The Dark Age on their next step on the path to vengeance during the troubling 1970s and 80s in Astro City. We got Cleopatra and Pyramid and all kinds of interesting things going on but as usual it's background to the more personal stuff that's happening. Royal's in training as a henchman for Pyramid, which is great, as henchmen are fascinating.

Astro City, my friends. You can't beat it, I swear.

Aha - we’re starting to come to some comics that I’ve talked about before. Maybe I’ll just do a little blurb about things like that instead of the whole shebang, unless something big happens, of course. Or maybe if they come out really sporadically. Or if I like them a lot. Okay, sometimes there will be blurbs and here’s one now:

Strange Adventures No. 3 - More fun with DC’s space heroes. Still a good time but I reckon I’d be getting more out of it if my knowledge of alla this stuff was more complete. As usual, it’s fun to buy a comic with the same name as the store I’m shopping at.

Irredeemable No. 2 - Woo! Still great! This issue follows Kaidan, a neato super-hero with a very cool power (and an adorable costume in the flashback that starts the issue) as she seeks out info from rogue hero The Plutonian’s girlfriend. I’m really digging this series - looks like it won’t just be the standard tale of possession by an evil spirit or what have you but a really interesting look at what could drive someone so good and so powerful to be monstrously evil. With lots of terrific characters, to boot!

The Life and Times of Savior 28 No. 2 - Another very interesting examination of the superhuman condition, this time looking at Savior 28, an ultra-patriotic type who turns to the way of pacifism and gets assassinated for it. Well-told and well-drawn, and I think that maybe it’s based on the original “let’s kill Captain America” plot as detailed in Was Superman a Spy? (I read it! It’s good!) and here.

World of New Krypton No. 3 As I said last time: this book keeps on being good and I like it. This time there’s more Labor Guild Civil Rights Movement action and possibly the first time Alura hasn’t acted semi-insane for more than a panel or two. Kal-El just keeps on showing up the Kryptonians on the morality front, too. I’ll bet a dollar right now that most of the population of New Krypton end up back in a bottle by the end of all of this, though.

Killer of Demons No. 3 (of 3) -  Fun! Dave wrote about this one a couple of weeks ago and what he said still stands. Looks like this one is  going to keep on , maybe in a series of miniseries or a regular series or something. Featuring: Heaven and Hell signing what is perhaps the most unbalanced pact ever!

Seaguy No 2 (of 3) - What? Grant Morrison has written something delightful and perplexing? Has the world gone topsy-turvey? Bull-dressing is the best sport ever, is what I say. Viva El Macho!

The Flash: Rebirth No. 2 - Ag! This is very interesting! Don't kill off all of the speedsters, Geoff Johns! Otherwise... carry on.

Sleep well, champs!