John Buys Comics: John Buys Comics

Not sure why, but I just caught up on some stuff that I bought up to two weeks ago. Well, I'm pretty certain about why I caught up on it (I like comics and thus read them all the time) but why there were about six unread issues from each week remains a mystery. In any case, don't explode with surprise if something from a while back creeps into this here episode of JBC.

More Flashpoint Miniseries!


Why It's They're Here: Partially because I seem to be reading all of the tie-ins on this one (I fully intended to skip some of these thangs, but they all seem to feature just enough of my preferred characters to entice me into laying down the dollars) but mostly because they've been flinging out some pretty fun (if super-grim) twists and turns and alternate universe hooba jooba.

Non-Spoiler Summary: You know... alternate universe stuff. The world is changed and everything's different because of one little difference in the timestream.

The Very Best Thing About It: [BIG FAT SPOILERS IF YOU ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT FLASHPOINT SPOILERS] Despite the fact that this whole event is kind of stupid, there have been some neat alternate universe things going on in these books: Jimmy Olsen ending up as Cyborg's Pal in a Superman-free world; Evil Magic Dr Thirteen; skinny, kept in the dark his whole life Kal-El; Martha Wayne as the Joker to Thomas Wayne's Batman. There's a lot of neat ideas here that are perfectly-employed in such a consequence-free setting. Plus, Barry Allen having to be horribly electrocuted twice to get his powers back was inexplicably hilarious.

The Very Worst Thing About It: Reverse Flash Messes With Regular Flash Through Time Japery was an irritating plot in the Flash's own comic last year. Revisiting it here is agonizing - will the Flash dig deep and overcome his foe yet again? Probably! Reverse Flash is one moustache and one top hat away from tying Iris West to a train track in order to get the deed to an orphanage with an oil well underneath it and it is slowly killing me to read.

Who Made It: So many people.

Michael Moorcock's Elric: The Balance Lost


Why It's Here: Because Elric, that's why. Ye Eternal Champion, albino style,  is one of the most entertaining tragic figures in fantastic literature.

Non-Spoiler Summary: In the classic Moorcock mode, the balance between Chaos and Order is getting out of whack and it's up to the variously tragic incarnations of the Eternal Champion to make things right. Featured Champeens include the titular Elric (murderous, mopey, albino magician-king and last of his people), Corum Jhaelen Irsei (maimed, mopey prince and last of his people, plus my fave Champ), Dorian Hawkmoon (Not quite as mopey - the one I know least about) and newest incarnation Eric Beck (hipster, game designer, albino).

The Very Best Thing About It: I haven't read all of the Moorcock-inspired comics out there, by any means, but I have read a lot and this issue captures a lot of the requisite themes better than most. Possibly because everyone involved wasn't incredibly high during the entire process, possibly for other reasons. Plus there are lots of neat Chaos critters that have the same creepiness that Guy Davis' designs often do.

The Very Worst Thing About It: No Oswald Bastable.

Who Made It: Chris Roberson, writer. Francesco Biagini, artsman. Stephen Downer, colours. Travis Lanham, Letters.

Tiny Little Reviews:

Mystery Men

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because the second issue came out one or two weeks ago - this is one of the books that fell through the cracks for some reason. But still, David Liss and Patrick Zircher have done an excellent job of creating a Pulp-era Marvel comic, complete with brand-new (and well-dressed) heroes and villains. There are three issues to go and I shall be getting them all.

Secret Six No. 35

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Secret Six is a known quantity and a proven excellent comic. Too bad it looks to be ending in a coupleof issues. But Gail Simone don't shiv: she's taking Bane's excellent character arc to what should be an epic conclusion. Glee!

Moriarty: The Dark Chamber No. 3

Why I'm Keeping This Short: I'm running low on time. Briefly, the premise of this comic is that Professor James Moriarty managed to kill Sherlock Holmes on Reichenbach falls, and, his life having no meaning without a worthy adversary to challenge him, abandoned his criminal empire and sank into obscurity. Now, years later, a mad plot threatens London and Moriarty takes on the role of (anti) hero in order to save the day. Plus: one of the best depictions of Dr Watson I have ever encountered.

John Buys Comics: The New Look John Buys Comics

 In the wake of the near-death experience of not having a damn computer for two weeks I am retiring John Buys Comics, I think. It was conceived of when there were several people doing reviews on this site every week and the format that I set up for myself, loose as it was, was a bit too chore-like. And let me remind you: I grew up on a farm, where the word “chore” was taken literally, as in “pile up a cord of wood after school” or “shovel several times your weight in horse manure every day” and a young man can develop creative procrastination to a fine art.

So instead of writing a pocket review for every damn thing I read and saying the same damn thing over and over again, I’m going to pick out a few extraordinary or noteworthy or terrible books per week and give them the business. And maybe I’ll make up some semi-arbitrary categories to fill out, because I like doing that. Huzzah!

I might still call it John Buys Comics, but we'll all know it won't be the same.

Incredible Change-Bots Two (Top Shelf)

Why's It Here: Because it's the sequel to one of my favourite things. Also, the original comic is one of the most accessible books that I own - more people have read it just because it was lying around on my coffee table than have tried any of the many books that I occasionally feel the need to wax rhapsodic about in mixed company. There's just something about those slightly goofy-looking giant robots that immediately draws in basically anyone who has watched cartoons over the last twenty or so years.

The Non-Spoiler Summary: The Incredible Change-Bots return to Earth! Shootertron isn't dead! There are further political allusions!

The Very Best Thing About It: More face-time for Microwave, Popper and Soupy, my very favourite robots ever.

The Very Worst Thing About It: I can never shelve these books with the rest of my comics because they're so small - the other books end up bending over them and getting all weird looking. So they just kind of float around in a pile with all of the other odd-sized books until I maybe some day install a tiny shelf for them to have to themselves. 

Who Made It? Jeffery Brown, the scamp.

Closing Comments: Oh man I just found this trailer for the first book: check it out.

Hellboy: Buster Oakley Gets His Wish (Dark Horse)


Why It's Here: Because I love Hellboy with all my little blackened heart, that's why. And furthermore, I love Hellboy one-and-done stories even more than that. Even more than the main storyline, the one-off stories convey the sense that Hellboy live in a complex and interesting world that we are only seeing a piece of. All of the monsters and zombies and - in this case - aliens have crazy back stories and motivations and so forth and we only get to see a little bit of the picture before Hellboy punches them to death. It appeals to the part of me that used to scour the library and used bookstores and so forth back in pre-internet days, piecing together bits of information on one topic or another. With more punching.

Non-Spoiler Summary: It's a Hellboy yarn featuring aliens.

The Very Best Thing About It: The flying pig. Unquestionably. 

The Very Worst Thing About It: That Mike Mignola didn't draw it? But that's just whining, because the fact is that every non-Mignola artist that has been working on these books for the last few hears has been doing a phenomenal job. And hell: there is absolutely no way that we would be seeing one to three books per month from the various Hellboy series if one guy were still doing everything, so I'll just shut my big mouth, I guess.

Who Made It? Mike Mignola did the writing and... Heck, it looks like Kevin Nowlan did everything else, including letters and presumably colouring, because there's no credit for that here. Now I'm even more embarrassed about wishing for Mignola art.

Closing Comments: Looks like Dave Stewart  did some colouring as well. Thanks, Dark Horse web site!

And that's that for this week because I also bought that enormous Usagi Yojimbo box set that came out last year with all of the Fantagraphics stuff in it and I want to get back to reading it in enormous, three-hour instalments.

John Buys Comics: More Terse Than Usual Edition

Bit of a sparse week for me, comics-wise, so I have but three observations, one per book. Not that I only bought three books, that is. I just have three observations and they're spread out over three books. Yeah.

Young Justice No. 1 - Though I haven't yet seen the cartoon that this is spun off of, I was quite fond of the original Young Justice book and so trying this out seemed like a good idea. I am going to blame the fact that I found it completely incomprehensible on my lack of prior research - everything seems to make sense, after all, but it felt like I was missing some essential bits of information for not having the show under my belt. Actually, come to think of it that might be a good thing: comics based on other properties are often lacklustre precisely because they're constantly summarizing and paraphrasing what has come before. So I guess I'll just suck it up and watch a cartoon like a man. And shut my fat mouth.

Green Lantern No. 62 - Halfway through, Hal Jordan has a weird prophetic dream that indicates that one of Earth's Green Lanterns is going to die, or at least go away (be "lost" in the words if not the tense of the Guardian who indicates it). Anybody want to start a pool on who that'll be? Because I have a shiny golden dollar coin that I will bet on John Stewart.

And finally:

Dungeons & Dragons No. 4 - I'm trying to decide which of these is more likely to be the case, that all floating, talking skulls are hilarious or that I have only ever encountered hilariously-written floating, talking skulls. In either case, this book continues to capture the joy of a good game of Dungeons & Dragons in a way that both delights and, uh, delights again. 



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.


John Buys Comics, Unnamed Edition

I was absolutely positive that I would write an epically spectacular John Buys Comics last night. I'd read everything (for once), it was a good week full of good comics, I had these little cheesy shortbready things to snack upon... conditions were perfect. Then, disaster: my package from Topatoco arrived and I was powerless to resist the allure of Problem Sleuth and theMachine of Death. Curse my ways!

But who can blame me for loving Problem Sleuth (and by extension MSPaint Adventures)? I certainly can't! Why, brilliantly foolish comics and olde schoole adventure/puzzle games are two of my very favourite things and Andrew Hussie blends the two into something delightful. The closest thing to a criticism that I could think to level at the thing is "it's very long." and when you get right down to it, that's more like a bonus feature.

As for the comics that came out this week as opposed to several months ago, it was reminiscent of my Best of 2010 - Action Comics, Generation Lost, The Sixth Gun, Skullkickers - and they were all just as great as usual. Plus, in a callback to the Best of 2009, the trade paperback of the excellent Cursed Pirate Girl came out this week, and let me tell you again: this is one of the most original comics to come out in years, on a couple of levels.


The story of a cursed girl who gets swordfighting lessons in her dreams and follows a talking parrot on a fantastical voyage beneath the sea to find her missing pirate father (gasp) is good enough, but Jeremy Bastian's art hearkens back to the sort of intricate line drawing that started cartooning off in the first place, way back in the political cartoons in the 1800s. Except you can actually read the writing in all of the bubbles and rather than being about, say, an obscure bit of Victorian social satire, it's all little girls fighting monster octopi and murderous buccaneers.

Also new this week: Off Road by Sean Murphy!

Okay, not quite new. evidently this first came out in 2005 or so and I missed it completely. This is a shame, as I should have known about Sean Murphy years ago - between this and Joe the Barbarian he has very quickly found a place in my heart. The plot? Three guys (Trent, Brad, Greg) go offroading in Greg's new Jeep, get stuck in a swamp and have a hell of a time getting back out. It is, yes, the classic Dudes Get Into a Sticky Situation and Learn a Lot About Themselves and Each Other story, but it's a very satisfying example of the breed. It's always a joy to find out that someone whose art you dig can also sling a tale, and Murphy has definitely made the list.

John Buys Comics - A Sea of White

DC Comics' theme cover month has had a somewhat jarring effect on me this week, in that it starkly outlines just how many of their books I'm buying. I guess I'm enjoying them all, but it's still weird. Especially as the only two books I feel like talking about this week are from other publishers.

First, from Dark Horse, it's BPRD: Hell on Earth: Gods, the latest mini-series in the second mega-arc of the series. I think. Look, I don't have to fully understand the structure to love the books, okay?

As you might expect, this book continues the tale of the horrorfication of the Hellboy Earth, only instead of being told from the perspective of the folks on the front lines trying to stop bad things from happening, this series is focusing on the regular folks who are trying to live in a world in which several major cities have been destroyed by Lovecraftian abominations, where monsters haunt the darkness and civilization is starting to fray. Now, despite my love for these books it's been a long time since I've gotten terribly creeped out by them, so the visceral feeling of helplessness that can be conveyed by protagonists who don't have an army of researchers to tell them what's going on, who don't know much more than that everything is going to hell and that they are unable to do anything about it, is extermely compelling.

Meanwhile, Image released Infinite Vacation this week. It's not a new broad concept - regular Joe tries to discover just Who He Is in a crazy high-concept world - but that's not a bad thing when it's handled right. Good news: this one seems to be!

Main character Mark lives in a world/continuum of worlds in which travel to alternate dimensions has been perfected, and in which you can swap lives with other versions of yourself via a smartphone app and a chunk of change. Only now he seems to be the target of multiverse-wide murder, plus he's met a girl who doesn't subscribe to the life-hopping paradigm. 

So: murder, romance and intrigue across an infinity of realities. I can definitely get behind that, especially if Nick Spencer and Christian Ward keep up the quality writing and drawing, respectively.

If that just seemed to taper off there toward the end, well... it did. I left off finishing this until it got late and I got sleepy. Tragedy abounds. Good night!