John Buys Comics. Uphill. In a blizzard.

 It's true! It snowed so hard yesterday Wednesday that I got to leave work early, but I still trudged off to Strange Adventures to buy the comical booklets that I love so dearly. Plus I got some D&D miniatures. And also I stopped on the way home for some beer. Hell, if I'm going to get snowed in, lose power and gradually freeze to death I might as well go doing what I love.

But everything turned out all right! And I still got to keep the comics! Oh what a world we live in. Here are some of the stand-outs:

Oh hey, it's the DAYTRIPPER TRADE, YOU GUYS. Yes, that one series that I've been going on and on about for the last year has come out in trade and of course I haven't reread it yet, because I drank some of the beer and fell asleep early. But trust me, it's great. If you've read Casanova or Umbrella Academy then you know what Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá are capable of art-wise, and it's at least as great on a storytelling level. It's... the story of a man's life, told as a series of defining moments and punctuated by the finality of death. There, that's my succinct sumary. Does it tempt you? It should tempt you. Read it, damn it.

And in a completely different part of the comic spectrum, it's the Superman 80-Page Giant! Despite my abiding love for Superman, I almost passed on this one but heck, the Batman one was a hoot and this one followed suit. I mean, neither was perfect, but all that matters is that I am smiling at the end, yes? Here are the highlights: an amusing Bizarro take on the current Superman storyline, a completely awesome Jimmy Olsen yarn, Perry White's adopted son Keith re-entering continuity after maybe fifteen years and me still not being sold on bearded Jor-El. Headband Jor-El 4-evar, yo.

Oh god, so tired. This is all you get. Sorry 'bout that.


Unfunny: John is Shirking

Yup, not only did I fail to post an Unfunny yesterday but now I'm taking the whole danged week off. In London, no less, and for my Canadian readers: yes, the real one.

I'll try to check in from time to time, for instance if I end up forming a crime-fighting partnership with a Scotland Yard detective and a couple of Mods, or maybe if I discover an evil genetics laboratory in the Scottish Highlands. In the meantime, enjoy yourself another dose of Kafloppos:

Not quite as cryptic as the last one, perhaps, but the meaning of kafloppos still eludes me. Is it overcoming your OCD to date a tall girl, or forgetting to weed your garden? What is the common demominator?

- from Action Comics No. 102


John Buys Comics, Puts on Special Reviewing Hat

With special theme-week-appropriate rating system!

First Wave No. 1 (of 6)

Oh, what a rollercoaster ride this has been.

The First Wave special earlier this year, as I recall, was fun and I gave it a tentative pass. A melding of the DCU and a pulp-style setting has a hell of a lot of potential, after all. Then we had two separate waves of Post-It Previews, which are just the sort of thing to poison my mind against a project (“Brian, Just read your background material on the Blackhawks. Loved it but am concerned that it is too awesome and may blow everyone’s minds way too hard. - Dan”), so by the time this actually came out I was primed to loathe it. Hell, I almost didn’t buy it, that’s how grumpy I was about the whole thing. Happily, the quality levels of the marketing and the actual book were not at all comparable. In short: I liked this book, despite all odds.

Okay, that was a falsehood. When you have a book that features the Spirit AND Doc Savage AND a version of Batman who is also kind of the Shadow, you’re kind of starting off with me as your target audience. If you go ahead and write it really well, then you’ve got a good chance at keeping my attention, and so it’s a good thing for Brian Azzarello that he did just that. First Wave doesn’t really read like a pulp novel - a good thing, because I don’t know that it’s a writing style that would translate very well - but like some of the latter day attempts to write adventures in pulp-style worlds. Uh, by which I mean it’s a lot of fun, like most such projects are. Plus you’ve got Rags Morales knocking the art out of the park, plus there’s what I suspect to be a robot with a human brain on page four. So, yeah: four out of five hats:

Sparta: USA No. 1

Man, what is it with Wildstorm lately? Every time something like Mysterius the Unfathomable or North 40 ends, another series that scratches the same sort of itch appears. I’d like it even more if two or three of those sort of series would run at the same time, but I’ll take what I can get (the itch, by the way, is for a series that is well-written, well-drawn, has an interesting mystery at its core and is full of supernatural or science-fictiony weirdness. Hey, The Unwritten is an ongoing that fits that description, isn’t it? I’m so lucky).

The preview for this book last week was the best teaser for a comic book I’ve seen in a long time. It starts out as a description of a small American town and got just weird enough to intrigue: the folks have just a bit too much civic pride. They like football just a bit too much. There’s a hint of menace here and there, where there shouldn’t be, and then at the end there’s mention of a yeti. Five pages and DC had made a sale, though as it was just the first five pages of the comic I guess I should credit David Lapham and Johnny Timmons more than anyone.

This is the sort of comic that I form a deep attachment to on first read - I know that all of the weirdness associated with the town of Sparta will be explained in good time an am pretty sure that the process is going to be joyful. Five hats.

Age of Reptiles: The Journey No. 3 (of 4)

Richard Delgado has a bit at the end of these issue where he talks about falling in love with dinosaurs as a kid, and this issue focuses on how fascinated he was with the dinosaur paintings of Charles R. Knight. That’s precisely right - this series even more than the prior [Age of Reptiles] books feels like a study of a collection of actual animals, just like all of the pictures that I used to pore over in my dino books. The storytelling on the cover alone just sucked me in for a couple of minutes, for heaven’s sake. I’ll be getting a copy of this for my nephew, once I’m sure that he’s past book-destroying age. Five hats.

Nemesis: the Impostors No. 1 (of 4) - Though RUN! was the most viscerally pleasing of the Final Crisis Aftermath series, I reckon that Escape was the best book over all. It did, however, leave a huge number of questions hanging in the air. Will this series clear anything up? Let’s decide in a SECOND ISSUE OF JUDGEMENT. In the meantime: three hats, the hat-equivalent of one eyebrow raised expectantly.

Adventure No. 8 - Okay: the first issue of Adventure under a new creative team without crossover bullshit to contend with! How’d they do? Let’s see… Legion of Super-Heroes stuff: good times. Legion Espionage Squad, Mon-El and Superboy stuff: also good times, and the first two parts look like they’ll come together into a Brainiac beat-down in good order. General Sam Lane and Project 7734? HAS TO END. SO BORING. SNORE.

I guess that makes this issue two-thirds good, which I’ll say is three hats.

Astro City: Dark Age Book Four No. 2 - Astro City books get five hats even when I’m not using a hat-based rating system, that’s how much I love them. And this issue features Las Vegas’ super-hero, who is named Mirage and has neon sign powers. I weren’t so lazy I’d make another graphic and give this book six hats.

Sweet Tooth No 7 - Okay, next issue has got to be the one where Sweet Tooth wakes up and he’s still with Mr. Jessup and then Mr. Jessup teaches him to play hockey. And then a kitten. Four tear-stained hats.

*doffs hat* Good night everybody!


Oh Man. John Bought Comics and Hates to Waste Words

 Well! Here I am again. I’m a bit put out at myself, as I’d really wanted to keep up a regular update schedule on this blog. This weekend defeated me, however, what with the play that I was in coming to a close and the deluge of foodstuffs associated with the Thanksgiving weekend (I did get to hang my niece upside-down by the ankles for a few hours, so who am I to complain?). And with the fact that I am kind of lazy. But I had written most of this already and damn it, my opinions deserve to be fired onto the Internet, right? I still owe one post, though.

Back on track with me then: here are some extremely late reviews:

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

And so the first of the Final Crisis Aftermath series ends. Honestly, I’m not too sure how I feel about the whole thing. I really enjoyed the self-centred asshole aspect of the Human Flame, and I had a good time with the bit where he was getting more and more powerful and screwing over everyone who got in his way, but right about the point in issue 3 or 4 where he jumped out the window and messed himself up I was kind of hoping that he’d go into some sort of horrible spiral that led him back to where he had started, only with everyone in the world hating him and he could end up a horribly-broken cyborg living under a bridge and feeling sorry for himself. The route that they did take (spoilers, I guess, though you probably saw this coming at the end of the last issue. If you read the last issue - not sure if I’m the only one reading this series or not) wherein he just gets more and more powerful and ends up defeating himself by his own hubris, well, it’s just not as emotionally satisfying to me, though that last panel was cute. Hey, at least he’s still alive at the end, so the opportunity for him to wind up under that bridge still exists.

You know, I haven’t been mentioning the covers on this series, but they’ve been fantastic, every one. Who did these things? Kako, eh? Kako, you’re magnificent. Aw, griping aside, this has been a pretty solid time. God job, folks.

Planetary No. 27

Jumpin’ Jehosephat! I know that the fact that it’s been about three years since the last issue of this came out is going to be a highly popular element of any review of it and so might be something to avoid lest I be tiresome, but I nevertheless must exclaim a little bit. That is a long-ass time, three years. That’s a tenth of my life, and one hundred thousandth of my projected lifespan, assuming my scheme to get me a fusion-powered robot body comes to fruition.

I have to admit that this is a bit of a bittersweet ending for me, as Planetary is one of the series that really initialized my transition from being a nerd who liked comics to a full-blown comics nerd. On the one hand it’s going to pretty great to sit down and read the whole series end to end, while on the other, it’s basically time to admit to myself that there just won’t be any more Planetary in my future, barring the occasional special.

As for the story itself, well, as you know (and if you don’t know, well… you had three years) last issue dealt with the schooling of the Four. Having beaten the end boss of the comic, Elijah Snow has turned his attentions toward the matter of his missing friend Ambrose Bierce, lost lo these many years after being shot up by some dudes. It’s a wrapping-up issue and it works well with the rest of the series and all, but I’ll probably enjoy it more at the end of a long evening of reading Planetary by a roaring fire than in the temporal isolation that this release was nestled in. So that’s what I’ll do next time I have a long evening free and a roaring fire, I guess. In the meantime, I shall enjoy that superfly foldout cover.

I… I foresee a purchase. It’s… it’s whatever equivalent to Absolute Planetary they eventually put out. The buyer, I can see his face *gasp* it’s me!

Irredeemable No. 7

I need an acronym or a euphemism or something like that for when I read an issue of an ongoing series and really enjoy it but have either nothing new to say or fear spoilers because all of my thoughts about the issue revolve around plot elements. HNNTS/FSTRAPE? Naw, too consonanty. How about a non sequitor? Okay, if there’s a non sequitor instead of a review then the comic has continued in a favourable direction.

*ahem* The dachshund is the noblest of dogs. His ability to fit under any standard furnishing assures that your floor will remain forever free of crumbs and edible debris.

R.E.B.E.L.S. Annual No. 1

Hey, an annual!

It’s not just my fondness for the Legion of Super-Heroes or for its child L.E.G.I.O.N. It’s not just that Vril Dox is the most entertaining total bastard in comics and not that Tony Bedard is just knocking him out of the park, writing-wise. Hell, it’s not just that this series has managed to tell its own story without a hint of getting drawn into Blackest Night or any other such malarkey (and done so while looking damn good, to boot). All of these are terrific reasons for me to love R.E.B.E.L.S. but what is primarily on my mind right now is the fact that Starro the freaking Conqueror has finally gotten an origin story, one that neither invalidates any past appearances by the giant starfish nor precludes future starfishery He worked so well as a giant starfish who just showed up without reason and rained super-hero on super-hero fight scenes down on things for so long and with such panache that if the decision had been left up to me I might have decreed that he be forever origin-less. Shows what I know, I guess.

And good call on making Starro the Conqueror a multigalactic barbarian warlord. If there’s one archetype that’s going to have staying power, it’s got to be the barbarian. I guess that theoretically they could become next year’s pirates or zombies but I reckon that a lot fewer people are comfortable running around with their shirt off than in a puffy shirt. Plus it’s harder to get the dialogue right.

I Sell the Dead

I very much picked this up because of the title, and because the EC-style cover was so nicely realized. Turns out that inside was an engaging yarn about a couple of grave robbers who have drifted from digging up corpses for anatomists to selling various undead or otherwise unusual corpses to a variety of strange customers. Why yes, I do enjoy the undead, thank you. And lovable rogues? Loveable corpse-stealing rogues? Delightful.

And then I got to the end and it turns out that this is a… comic adaptation of a movie based on the concept for the comic? Is that right? I have no idea. I do know that I could stand to watch a movie featuring 19th-century misadventures in zombie-napping. And featuring Ron Perlman, yet! Only trouble is I don’t think that my ladyfriend will go for it, being no fan of such horror-style tomfoolery. Maybe if I play up the whole anatomist angle, tell her that she should watch it in order to get a sense of the sort of things that her pathologist forebears had to go through in order to have a lot of corpses to learn from?

I’ll let you know how that goes. (Update: it worked! Now we just have to use our powerful mind-beams to compel the people responsible for distributing such things to show it here and we’ll be set!) (Second update: wait, IMDB says that this came out last year. Maybe I can rent this? I have no idea what's going on any more)

Batman Unseen No. 1 (of 5)

You know, I could get very used to this. Since Bruce Wayne is dead, the majority of his appearances are places like Superman/Batman or Batman Confidential, which work in short arcs, or else in miniseries like this. Do you know what that means? I’ll tell you what that means: a lot of stories in which Batman fights dudes without a lot of extraneous bullshit. Not that it’s not possible for extraneous bullshit to creep into these stories - Widening Gyre seems to be more bullshit than Batman - but with ties to the ongoing DCU the Batman is able to shine of fail on his own.

So: Batman Unseen. A story about Batman vs an invisible man with the not-quite-as-bad-as-some-Silver-Age-names-but-still-groan-worthy moniker of Nigel Glass. The art’s by Kelley Jones, and looks just as moody and interesting as in last year’s Gotham after Midnight (man, I should pick up that trade. I never did finish getting that series after missing two of the 700 or so issues). You got Batman worrying about not being scary enough, you got Harvey Bullock investigating a weird crime, which is always fun to watch, and you got a very crazy and very fun invisible guy, who kind of looks and talks like the Mad Mod.

Now: the question is will Batman make himself invisible in order to be more scary? Will we have an invisible, crazy and buck-naked Batman running around? Oh what fun!

Batman and Robin No. 5 - Gah! Dangit, the Red Hood is evidently Jason Todd. Again. I guess that I can get behind that as long as the whole “Batman Reborn” mandate is followed and the guy gets straightened out once and for all - no more half-assed plotlines where he comes back and tries to be a badass and nobody takes him seriously (or takes him way too seriously) and then he seems to die. Just… establish some sort of status quo for the guy that isn’t terrible and I’ll be okay.

But as long as Jason has to be around, I’m happy that Morrison managed to sneak in a joke about the phone-in that killed him in the first place.

Strange Tales No. 2 - Not only does this issue have a super-delightful, super-weird Iron Man story by Tony Millionaire and not only does it have a whole lot of great Thing moments, but I think that it might have given me my Hallowe’en costume for this year. Wait and see, I guess.

Sherlock Holmes No 5 (of 5) - Man, I’m usually decent as far as figuring out mysteries is concerned. Really, I should have read the first four issues again before cracking this one. I don’t think that I would have figured everything out but I might have gotten a bit closer than I did. Basically, I got Watsoned. Hopefully there’ll be more Holmes from Leah Moore and I’ll have a chance to regain my honour.

Man, Holmes just has the sassiest look on his face on that cover.

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels No. 4 (of 5) - This was a pretty good week for comics set in the Victorian period, wasn’t it? Just wanted to note that I love the electro-prods that the Heliotropic Brotherhood of Ra cart around in the Hellboy comics, even though they never quite seem to get the voltage right. Seriously, every time these guys show up they get their asses handed to them (see The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings, in which they are beaten up by a demon monkey). Some quality technology nevertheless.

Red Tornado No. 2 - How creepy was the fact that the Red Torpedo’s controls were all behind her boobs? And not, like, sticking out, either, so that a hollow space was needed. Totally flat. Why did T.O. Morrow build giant hollow boobs that flipped open and had circuits and stuff underneath? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

Doom Patrol No. 3 - You know, I’ve been wavering back and forth on this title, but I do believe that this issue has sold me on the whole thing. Something about this issue was just right for the task of selling me on the way the characters are being… characterized. It took a while to come through but these are definitely the original Doom Patrollers, although of course the passage from the 60s to today has left them kind of creepy, particularly the Chief, who is one decapitation away from being the Vertigo incarnation reborn. Dare I hope for a humbling? All this and the return of Rita Farr’s unsettling use of her power to grow just part of herself - always very weird and terrific.

As for the Metal Men, I like them, too! Especially if the whole thing where Copper is very forgettable goes away soon!

Strange Adventures No. 8 (of 8) - Was… was this whole series just to straighten out a few characters? That’s it? Nothing happened? What the hell? And why did everyone who got a new costume get a creepy thong? Argh! Boo! BOOOOO!

Sweet Tooth No. 2 - When approaching a horse from behind, it is important to speak to it, or it may kick you.

Dangit, I think I missed an issue of Jersey Gods.

Other news:

I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts to make the workday fly in recent months, and I feel this extra-strong urge to plug a few. Super Future Friends I have mentioned before, but I will again because it is delightful. Also good but way more nerdy is the Legion of Substitute Podcasters, which may not be for those who cannot find a place in their hearts for at least one member of the Legion of Super-Heroes (Shrinking Violet, maybe? Quislet? Come on). But man, War Rocket Ajax. I almost want to warn you away from it. Not that it’s not good - to the contrary, it’s consistently entertaining - but with every single episode I listen to I find out about something that I had no idea about and feel an immediate need to own. It’s like Chris Sims and our own Dave have hatched a plot in order to bleed my wallet dry. Well, I'm on to you. And now, I'll... plug your show. Damn it, I'm bad at revenge.

Also noteworthy: I got a Dear Dr Capitalism email pointing me toward this video that has been created for the song 'Aquaman's Lament' by the Motion Sick. Say what you will about the man (for instance, say that he is a horrible zombie) but he has some pretty decent moves, I reckon.

5 or 6 days late, I remain,


Sometimes John Doesn't Have to Buy Comics

Did I ever tell you that I was a procrastinator? I am! I put things off! Here’s a story to illustrate:

About a month or so ago, Benjamin Shahrabani of Com.X Comics got in touch with me and asked if I wanted review copies of a couple of Com.X publications. Now, you may have noticed that I spend good money to review things already, so doing it for free is a no-brainer - I think that the only time that I wouldn’t accept a review copy is if it looked like I’d hate what’s being offered and it’s being offered by a creator or a smaller outfit rather than a faceless corporation (Fun Fact: remember when we reviewed those X-Men DVDs and we were not kind? Well, they responded to our scorn by offering us Season 2 to review. The scars were too deep to accept, I’m afraid). I’m not a monster, after all.

So the books arrived and I sat on them for a week and then I read one and sat on them for another week and my friend ran off with one and I got it back and read it and sat on them for another couple of weeks, in the meantime writing long posts about Green Arrow in the woods and how Batman should dance more.

Luckily, Benjamin seems to be a very patient guy and has responded to my poor review punctuality with aplomb. Good show, sir! Look: your postage was not in vain!

The first of the Com.X books that I read was entitled Razorjack, by John Higgins. Razorjack is a perfect example of the joy of getting review copies, because I’m pretty sure that I never would have picked this book up on my own - not that it looks bad, so much as that it doesn’t have the proper plumage to fire up the wallet-opening portions of my brain (Tip for publishers looking to attract that ever-so-lucrative Johnathan Market: top ways to attract my eye include images of super-heroes having lunch, titles that are elaborate puns, robots, guys with the approximate build of a gorilla punching monsters).

I think that I might’ve been in a bad mood the first time I read this, because I remember liking it but being grumpy at the same time. Like one of the fonts used for a special character’s speech balloons really stuck in my craw, but now it looks fine. Maybe it’s a good thing that I procrastinated after all.

So Razorjack is an interdimensional conqueror type who is into bondage gear (and aren’t they all, those interdimensional conquerors? I think that it’s high time for a pan-universal tyrant who has some more esoteric tastes in fashion - one who dresses like an English professor or like someone from Renaissance Italy, only with a Viking hat) and has just discovered our dimension, leading to all kinds of crazy attempts to open a portal between where she is and where we are, for the purpose of further conquering. Oh, the wackiness: piles of severed heads and angry, bullet-riddled zombies and possessed drama students abound!

The heroes of the piece are Ross (the young lady on the cover) and Frame, a couple of maverick police types who get mixed up in the inevitable rash of violent deaths that always seem to accompany an attempt by an evil nigh-omnipotent interdimensional warlord to pass from one dimension to the next (and how different would those old JLA/JSA teamups have been if crossing from Earth-1 to Earth-2 required a series of ritualistic murders? Jay Garrick and Barry Allen all running toward that guy on the cover of Flash No. 123 holding knives…). I guess that I can’t really go into the details without giving too much away, but there’s all kinds of crazy hoodoo and blood and such. It wasn’t quite to my taste, I must admit, but not due to any fault with the comic. Actually, I’d kind of like to see the further adventures that are hinted at at the end, as the abandoned building where everything went down becomes a crazy portal to innumerable dimensions and it’s supernatural detective vs. Razorjack across space and time. Hear that? That was the sound of my wallet trying to flip open reflexively at the sound  of the words "supernatural detective".

The second book was Path, by Gregory Baldwin and let me tell you, it was a hoot. If Razorjack was an exercise in being exposed to something new then this was one in saving a few bucks, because there’s a pretty damn good chance that I would have picked it up if I’d seen it in a store.

Path is concerned with the adventures of one (1) anthropomorphic rabbit (Doppler) and one (1) anthropomorphic elephant (Dodge) as they attempt not to get eaten. The two bounce from hazard to hazard for the whole damn book, just barely squeaking out of one scrape in time to get into another. And it’s delightful! There’s not too much time for deep and meaningful examinations of character when Doppler and Dodge are constantly running for their lives but enough comes through to let you know that they’re both pretty damn enjoyable folks. I kept hoping that they’d have a couple of pages in which to rest and have a bit of a chat but no such luck.

Of course, it helps that everything looks so pretty. There’s lots of vertiginous landscape for our heroes to cling to and fall off of and giant creatures for them to flee and smaller creature for them to flee and even a giant robot at one point. And it all looks great. Mr Baldwin, I commend your monster design. Here: my scanner is out of commission but I lifted a couple of pages from Amazon:

This is where the whole thing starts - some crazy monster-filled canyon, somewhere.

And this is just one of the many things that try to eat our heroes. I think that it's a spire-dwelling life form.

In short, Path was fantastic. It's basically just wall-to-wall action and fun and crazy creatures. I cannot stress the crazy creatures enough. And with a great ending!

John out!