John Buys Comics

Red Robin No. 2

This was one of those comics that I was on the fence about after the first issue, right? I was all set this week to institute a new feature called the SECOND ISSUE OF JUDGEMENT specifically for these kind of situations, but dammit, I'm still on that fence. The good and the bad, my friends, are fairly balanced. Shall I run down the list? Indeed I shall.

The good: The Red Robin costume was one of my favourite redesigns in Kingdom Come, so it's nice to see it get used. Let's see... lots of good fights, a look at the DCU outside of the US... Tim's narration is written well and there is some decent writing overall, particularly the dialogue from the three League of Assassins goons, which is nicely on-character.


The bad: While the premise of the series (Tim doesn't think that Bruce Wayne is actually dead, charred corpse or not) is fine - you and I know that it'll take more than a couple of Omega Beams to keep the goddam Batman down - the execution is really painful. Now, I haven't watched much teen drama since my university girlfriend made me watch a lot of Dawson's Creek, so I'm not really up-to-date on the tropes of that genre. Nevertheless, that's all I can think of when reading the parts of this comic that deal with the events leading to Tim's Bat-quest. "Pacey, everyone's worried about you." "Dammit, Joey, don't you mean that Dawson is worried about me? God, you won't tell the truth about anything. I can't trust anyone. Everything is very dramatic!" Tim gets into a snit (possibly about Damien being Robin), pushes away his entire supporting cast, and lights out. It's infuriating and painful and so incredibly unnecessary. Here, I'll write an alternate prologue:

"Hey guys. I know that you're worried but I'm okay. I have millions of dollars and was trained by Batman and I'll be back in a bit. I just have to go do this thing for my own peace of mind. Remember, I'm the most rational and intelligent of the Bat-family - I won't act like an idiot all the time."


"Hey rest of people who care about me but who I am not specifically mad at. Yeah, dick move on Dick's part, haha. Don't worry, I'm sure we'll work it out after I get back from looking for Bruce. Sure there was a corpse, but Barry melted and he managed to come back. Okay, see you in twelve issues or so."


"Man, I need a vacation."

Minimize all of that over-dramatic stuff and this might just become a pretty good series. Seriously, the only people who act like that are the semi-crazy.

North 40 No. 1

This is the comic that was previewed in Wildstorm titles a couple of weeks ago - happily, it looks like they've stopped slapping a big notice on the front of every comic that has a preview inside, possibly due to the fact that every comic that DC puts out nowadays has a preview inside. I'd complain more but the ones this week look like they could be pretty good. Just wait until the preview for Cry for Justice II: Hush plays Starcraft and I'll let loose.

Wildstorm is putting out some pretty good comics nowadays! I'm not sure what makes a comic Wildstorm versus Vertigo - are Wildstorm titles creator-owned? In any case, I approve of the trend: North 40 is completely filled with potential for delight. Now they just need to make the whole "first issues are a dollar" thing a company-wide policy and I will be a happy man. (I looked it up: WildStorm is editorially distinct from DC proper and features creator-owned content)

In this first (more than a dollar) issue, a goth and a nerd (handily pictured on the cover) abuse the interlibrary loan system and acquire a Lovecraftian tome of ancient evil, complete with cephalopod cover. They neglect to follow rule 1 of dealing with cosmic horrors: never open any book with an octopus embossed onto the front, particularly if it projects more than three inches out. Something horrible happens. Their entire small town loses consciousness for a day and when they wake up a lot of them have been changed, mostly in really horrible ways.

This is a great set-up issue, as the residents of Conover County try to figure out what's happened to them and some sort of extra-horrible event, possibly involving a tentacled Outer God, looms in the future. Sides are starting to shape up, there may well be feuding monster hillbillies at some point, and there might be more of that goth chick later on (I am evidently a sucker for goth chicks). Aaron Williams and Fiona Staples knocked this one out of the park for me - we meet a lot of characters in this issue and they all get a distinctive look (particularly after they get monsterized) and an effective shorthand sketch of their personality. I was going to say that it reminds me of a really good television series that I might obsess over but just now realized that it's also very reminiscent of the movie Tremors in that it involves a lot of interesting characters in a small desert community trying to deal with a really horrific situation. It also looks fantastic and has a really nice, setting-appropriate and atmospheric colour scheme.


Wednesday Comics No. 1

I don't tend to follow the comic book news too closely, partially because I read a lot of DC comics and Dan Didio exhales spoilers instead of carbon dioxide and partially because I am very lazy, so while I had heard about this I didn't really know anything about it until the ad for it ran last week. The ad made me very excited. Fifteen stories featuring a lot of great characters and serialized at a (quadruple-sized) page a week? This could be very good. And this week I bought it and it was! The creators seem to have had free reign, as far as I can tell, with stories being set whenever and featuring whoever and thus hopefully never having to tie in to any giant crossovers or whatever. I will bet a dollar that a lot of these will eventually be collected into trades. A quick rundown of the stories:

Batman: Looks like Bruce Wayne-style Batman is going to solve a mystery. This one looks fantastic - lots of very effective panels with atmospheric colour and lighting. (Azzarello& Risso)

Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth: This one looks very nice, with plenty of shots of ruined future New York. No indication on what the story is about due to it being a bit of a "the story so far" episode, but I have a feeling that Kamandi will get to fight some anthropomorphic animals next issue! (Gibbons, Sook)

Hawkman: Hawkman vs. a plane! This is the classic Silver Age alien Hawkman, and the story is being told from the perspective of a flock of birds. A comics first? (Baker)

Deadman: Deadman also gets to solve a mystery, and looks good doing it. Boston Brand is a great character who doesn't get enough time in the spotlight to himself, so I hope that this mysterious murderer has some good tricks up his fairly natty sleeve. (Bullock, Heuck)

Green Lantern: Possibly set in the New Frontier universe and definitely set during Hal Jordan's Sixties heyday, the first episode is mostly concerned with his supporting cast, which is always a good sign. Plus: it looks really nice. (Busiek, Quinones)

Superman: Superman fights a really excellent-looking alien. This will either be an unrelenting sock-fest or some sort of quest for identity. (Arcudi, Bermejo)

Metamorpho: Neil Gaimen writes Mike Allred in a story set firmly in the Haney years of the Metamorpho saga. This is possibly the Wednesday Comic that I am most excited about. Looks great and reads great, plus the Element Girl is going to return (Neil must feel guilty about bumping her off in Sandman). Now hopefully the mystery villain will be the one that never ended up getting revealed in the original series. (Gaimen, Allred)

Teen Titans: Another one that's a bit of a set-up for later episodes and one of the few that are definitely set in the present, or at least with the current Titans line-up. Some chump tries to kill the Titans. Not my favourite art style but better than usual against the white background. (Berganza, Galloway)

Strange Adventures: Very cool-looking Adam Strange tale. This is the Wednesday Comic that looks the most like something out of an actual comics page, only bigger. Set on Rann and fulla old-school space adventure. And mandrills! (Pope)

Supergirl: As far as I can tell, this is the Silver Age Supergirl - her costume features no exposed belly and no headband, at least - dealing with some misbehaving super-pets. Looks very nice with some terrific facial expressions. Should be a lot of fun. (Palmiotti, Conner)

Metal Men: Another one that presents the Silver Age version of the characters, as Doc Magnus takes the Metal Men out to observe humanity and is an asshole to them. Either set in the Sixties or showcasing the Metal Men's poor senses of fashion. Or both. (Didio, Lopez, Nowlan)

Wonder Woman: Teenage Wonder Woman getting ready to leave Paradise Island? I think? I was a bit confused by the narrative in this one, I must admit. The talking pigeons were fun though, and the Graeae swapping one glowing green eye was a nice touch. (Caldwell)

Sgt. Rock: WWII-era Sgt. Rock, vs. Nazis, by Kubert and Kubert. Yeah! (Kubert and Kubert, like I said)

The Flash: Barry Allen, pre-disintegration. Gorilla Grodd is in this one and written in a much more fun way than usual (seriously: Grodd has been savaged by the grim and the gritty almost as badly as Batman was). Featuring a neato format where it is subdivided into two subcomics: "The Flash" and "Iris Allen". I predict drama. (Kerschl, Fletcher)

The Demon and Catwoman: An odd teamup, but it looks like it's going to be a good time. Catwoman's going to steal something from Jason Blood and crazy stuff's gonna go down! This one looks really nice. (Simonson, Stelfreeze)

And that's that. I think that this idea has a heck of a lot of potential, as long as DC doesn't give up on it before it has a chance, like they so often do with such projects.

BPRD: 1947 No. 1

Man, this was a great week for comics.

BPRD: 1946 ended with a very ticked-off vampire vowing vengeance for Nazi experimentation on his kind. Now, one year later, it looks like he's carrying out his threat on various surviving SS officers and the like. Now here's the really good part: Doc Bruttenholm is concerned and so he sends a team in to investigate this vampire's past.

He sends a team!

This is great! The team is made up entirely of new characters - former soldiers and the like who were assigned to the BPRD at the end of the war - and they're all brand new, the most new protagonists in a Hellboy-related title since maybe Wake the Devil. So: we've got new characters without much in the way of a paranormal background bringing an interesting perspective to the whole thing, a very interesting little mystery for them to ferret out, nice spooky art coloured by Dave Stewart, World's Best Colourist... I am content.

Also: young Hellboy in pyjama pants is adorable.

Back for more:

Demon Cleaner No. 3 - I still like this comic, but dag nabbit it's a quick read. I finally figured it out why with this issue: the art is very nice and clean, with a Mignola-esque simplicity, but the main character is a taciturn SOB. So unlike an issue of, say, Hellboy, which is just crammed full of text, Demon Cleaner is filled with mostly pictures. Very nice pictures, mind you, but I can read a page pretty damn quickly. $3.99 for two or three minutes worth of entertainment might be a bit too steep for me... maybe I'll wait to see if the next issue features a little more exposition, as I have to figure that anybody who dreams up a restaurant where the rich gather to eat demons for their health should have a pretty good backstory for their main character.

Batman No. 688 - Not bad, Winick. This issue is something of a this-is-the-state-of-things checklist, with looks at Gordon and Alfred and the relationship between Dick and Damien. Highlights are seeing Batman grinning while fighting crime and Two-Face and his smart thug having a chat. A nice complement to the Batman and Robin series.

Booster Gold No. 22 - Time travel fun abounds, as does Teen Titans T&A and really flimsy cover stories. If this seres goes on for long enough then every hero in the DCU is going to have a story about the time they met Booster Gold and he was doing something weird. Dude needs a disguise shop like Spider-Woman had. The Blue Beetle backup is getting really fun - robots galore! I'm so glad that Jaime is still around.

Green Lantern No. 43 - We're almost at Blackest Night! I think that this is the end of the Prologue portion of the festivities, so get ready for your regularly-scheduled comics to be filled with power ring-weilding zombies, possibly. Sinestro Corps War didn't invade the DCU too severely as I recall, but then again there were all of those "Omens and Origins" backups a couple of months ago... Ah well. I'm excited for this one, and not just because I'm tired of seeing Scar vomit up black stuff and hopefully she'll get over that by the end. This issue is all about telling the horrible life story of William Hand, the Black Hand, and is not bad, if depressing and gross. Heck, they even kind of account for the cliche-spouting loser that Black Hand used to be back in the day.

R.E.B.E.L.S. No. 6 - So Starro the Conqueror is a man/starfish hybrid axe-wielding interstellar warlord from another galaxy, eh? I like it! This series just keeps getting better and Vril Dox just keeps getting more bastardly. And Amon Hakk is my very favourite Khund. Hey, and they seem to have done a pretty good job of exempting this series from any Blackest Night malarky, if I'm any judge. Good job!

Ag, it's bedtime. This is what happens when people invite me out to dinner - you are deprived of my opinions. The Strange Adventures of HP Lovecraft and Unwritten remain great! 

Good night!