Battle for the Cowl in 30 Seconds

The time has come once again for Chris Sims to take a week off, and so once again he has initiated his annual contest!

Accordingly, this:









And that's that.

Whoops, some of the images got a bit squished - click the wide ones for full size.

Oh. what the hell - might as well ride Chris' coattails a bit and mention my own super-cool micro-contest. Only 25 days left!

It's okay! John Buys Comics is here!

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!

John Buys Comics During Wolverine Week

Hello all. It's me, Johnathan, with the Wolverine Week edition of John Buys Comics. Uh, it turns out that I didn't buy any comics that feature Wolverine this week, so instead I'll be adding a bit at the end of each review that highlights any particularly Wolverine-reminiscent aspects of the comics involved. Yeah! Thematic!

Nevermore No. 1

This might be properly titled Dean Koontz's Nevermore, but the copy I have here omits the "'s" part, so I have no idea. Maybe they thought that it was too mid-Nineties of them to call it that, or maybe they didn't want to step on American McGee's toes.

I have to admit that I've never read anything by Dean Koontz. Not for any good reason, just an instinctual avoidance of books where the author's name is as or more prominent than the title (elitist! cries my inner agitator). My girlfriend says that she found him readable at age fourteen, so I'll use that as my opinion until I find some way to form my own.

Anyway, this is a decent comic. As you may have guessed from the multi-globed cover there''s some pan-dimensional travel involved and I'm a fan of that sort of thing. It's handled pretty well... not as well as that episode of Star Trek with Evil Goatee Spock but as well as the average episode of Sliders. As you can see, there are no super-hero-esque costumes, so I had to identify the characters as Big White Guy, Big Black Guy, Bigger White Guy, Little White Guy and The Girl. So it takes me two or three issues to learn the characters' names, so sue me.

Wolverine Moment: All of the characters get a chance to talk tough on page one. Little White Guy is the toughest but The Girl and Big White Guy get the best lines.

Mister Universe (One-shot)

 I must admit to some confusion.

I read Mister Universe. I liked the art, I enjoyed the dialogue, etc, etc. I don't have any sort of idea, though, what the thesis of this comic is supposed to be.

The plot concerns a teenage(?) boy who enjoys comics. A lot. He likes them enough that his parents are concerned for his sanity and call in the shrinks. But are they wrong to begrudge him his imaginative refuge? Is he a mental defective for his devotion to the titular Mister Universe? I haven't a clue. I'm tempted to say that the kid is the one in the right because he lives in a comic book but then again this isn't 1963 and it's perfectly possible to write a comic book that attacks the process of reading super-hero comics.

Bah. I don't know. I liked this book on one level but it didn't even leave me with enough information to make up my own mind. It was just some story, I don't know.

Wolverine Moment: Precipitated a Very Serious Discussion about the role of mind-bending drugs in medicine with my girlfriend, much like the talks I used to have with my friend Todd over whether a true super-hero would kill (Wolverine, Punisher examples).

Conan the Cimmerian No. 10

Seeing as how I managed to mention Robert E. Howard in each of my last two posts I figured that it was time to pick up a Conan comic and see how they were doing with the old fellow. Turns out I snagged a comic that takes place smack dab in the midst of a story arc, and one based on one of my favourite Conan yarns, "Black Colossus".

I think that I might like this comic more if I hadn't read the original story. By which I mean that I like the originals enough that an adaptation can't really hope to compete - new Conan stories would be more well-received by my brain than adapted ones unless the adaptation is flawless.

That said, this is a pretty decent book. The art is good, with Conan's facial expressions being a high point. Also, he has his own speech balloon style. Negative points for the absence of giant snakes, without which a Conan story just doesn't seem complete.

Bonus! a "Two-Gun Bob" comic about the life of Robert E. Howard! I thought I'd seen the last of these (excellent) things after the end of the (excellent) Solomon Kane series!

Wolverine Moment: Conan chops off some dude's fingers for stealing a drumstick off of his roast... lizard? rat? squirrel? Beast.

Mr. Stuffins No. 1

I heard about this a couple of months ago and thought “A teddy bear secret agent, eh? This is either going to be pretty awesome or pretty terrible.” Turns out: pretty awesome!

Exactly how a teddy bear secret agent comes to be is a bit of a plot point, so I won’t spoil. There aren’t anthropomorphic toys everywhere or anything like that, not that that wouldn’t make for a decent comic if done right, like a technothriller version of Kingdom of the Wicked.

Actually, I’m having trouble thinking of things that happened in this book that I can talk about without spoiling, so I’ll just say that the characterization is excellent. Kids: well-written. Parents: well-written. Bullies, rebellious teens, villains: check check check.

Wolverine Moment: Mr. Stuffins and Wolvie have a lot in common. This bear wishes that he had adamantium claws. He interrogates a pink bunny and you know that he’d be doing that thing that Wolverine does with his fist under a guy’s chin, where he talks about decanting his claws into the guy’s head? You know the thing I mean - he’d be doing that.

Battle for the Cowl: The Underground

Huh. This is an interestingly in-betweeney installment in the saga of the cowl-battling. It’s kind of one of those “state of Gotham” comics that I was whining about last week but manages to tie into the actual plot more than, say, the Man-Bat story did.

This issue deals with the seamy underbelly of Gotham City; it checks in on all of the gangs and the random criminals and such. Black Mask and Two-Face and the Penguin are all going at it tooth and nail while everyone tries to figure out how Black Mask managed to cheat death or if it’s a totally different guy under there. Actually, I’m wondering less about that and more about when Harvey Dent is going to put on that Two-Faced Batman costume from the promo ad. Probably soon, as he’s acting pretty crazy.

The homicidal Batman puts in an appearance, guns a-blazin' but his aim isn’t very good - at least this guy has a better costume than Azrael-Batman did back in the day. And speaking of good costumes, the Riddler is in this one! He gets tasked to track down Black Mask by the Penguin and basically sets up Gotham Sirens while doing so. I like this good-guy detective Riddler, especially as compared to the super-homicidal version that was running around a few years ago. I lied about the costume though - this is one of the worst suits I’ve ever seen him in.

Wolverine Moment: There’s a lot of car-smashing in this comic. I seem to associate Wolverine with vehicular collateral damage.

The Muppet Show Comic Book No. 2

This is a good comic and I am very happy about it. It’s always a bit wrenching when something you loved as a child (or later) is adapted into something awful but that didn't happen here, thank heavens. The Muppets are putting on a show, there are backstage hijinks interspersed with skits and such and that’s it. There’s no attempt to make the Muppets hip and trendy, no slavish devotion to the TV show’s guest star-centric format, funny jokes and Pigs in Space.

Man, there was nothing bad here: I wasn’t too sold on the comic’s version of Statler and Waldorf in the first issue but this one clinched it - I suppose that constant heckling is harder to work into a comic format, which I can understand. Fozzie has a crisis of faith in his abilities and ends up telling one of the best Shakespeare jokes ever. Rolf looks absolutely adorable.

Wolverine Moment: Waldorf has a dark secret! From his mystery-shrouded past!

Superman No. 687

I sorted through this week’s stack of comics at my girlfriend’s house, which is why she keeps coming up this week. She offered up all kinds of helpful commentary, mostly along the lines of “Yep, the women are pretty busty in this one too.” This comic caught her eye, though, as Superman is pretty much the only super-hero that she has anything invested in, so I got to explain that Superman wasn’t actually in the comic with his name on the cover and that it was nevertheless a good read. I don’t think that she bought it, but it turns out I was telling the truth. Much like what’s going on in all of those Battle for the Cowl books, this issue is sort of a rundown of what’s up in Metropolis now that Superman’s off being an army guy on New Krypton. Only in one issue instead of ten or fifteen one-shots.

Mon-El is still settling into his roles in the Science police and as Metropolis’ defender, Zatara is a dick and there are villains all over the place. Lots of promising groundwork was laid - here’s hoping it all pays off in future issues.

I was going to say that my favourite part of this issue was that the Untouchables showed up, because I love those guys, but I think it might be that cover. Check it out: there’s a tiny little reflection on the Guardian’s helmet in addition to the one on his shield. That makes me so happy for some reason.

Wolverine Moment: I’m pretty stumped here. Uh, the Guardian is really old, just like Logan?

Sherlock Holmes No. 1

I love Sherlock Holmes, folks. Sherlock Holmes stories are terrific - I reread them every couple of years and don’t get tired of doing so. That said, it’s really easy to write him badly or only half-right. Like… that Brave and the Bold episode with him and the Demon. Holmes was too much of a dick and too sloppy with his deductions (not that I didn’t enjoy it - it was a cartoon, for heavens’ sake. It just wasn’t the best Holmes). Anyway, Leah Moore and John Reppion write a good consulting detective: not an ass but not given to social niceties, fond of Watson instead of browbeating him all the time, etc. For that matter, they write a good Watson: not stupid, just not a relentless deducting machine. The art (Aaron Campbell) is suitably lovely as well, though I’m a bit disappointed that Inspector Lastrade looks nothing like either a ferret or a bulldog.

And there’s a very compelling mystery! I am very intrigued! Hooray!

Wolverine Moment: Well, after all: Sherlock Holmes is the best there is at what he does.

Green Lantern No. 40

More Orange Lantern fun as the Guardians head into the Vega system. I must say that I like this Larfleeze as the reason for the Green Lantern Corps staying out of Vega - it always seemed like guys like the Citadel and the Spider Guild would have went down like a wet tissue if the Corps had stepped up.

But I went on about all of this Lantern stuff last week. I shan’t bore you with a repeat performance. In brief: we get to see a bit of how the Orange power works in this issue and I’m still interested. We’ve only got the Indigo Lanterns to go and there have been no duds yet - all of the various Corps have an individuality that both distinguishes them from one another and makes me want to read more about ‘em. There’s a Tale of the Orange Lanterns at the end of this book that was pretty fun - I swear, if DC started putting out a book that was just Tales of the Various Lantern Corps I’d buy it every month. Those things are a hoot.

Wolverine Moment: This is starting to get hard… okay: one of the Green Lanterns is totally defiant of authority, in a gruff way.

Final Crisis: Legion of 3 Worlds No 4 (of 5)

Hot damn! Took a while but this one was worth it, what with the super-duper concentrated Legion-ness on every page. Bart Allen is back, as of the end of the last issue, and kicking plenty of Superman/boy Prime ass. There’s lots of great interaction between the alternate versions of various Legionnaires, particularly the Brainiacs 5. Er, Brainiac 5s? Brainiac Fives? I’m kind of sad that the Legion of Super-Villains doesn’t get more face time but what can you do? It’s a bigger-than-average book already and filled with lotsa plot. Heck, there are two whole dramatic reveals, including one that makes me unsure about how I feel about (see Comments Section).

Once the last issue of this comes out (in August?) I’m going to read ‘em all again. I think that I’ve been losing some of the threads and also want to check whether it actually ties into the regular Final Crisis. This and Rogues’ Revenge were definitely my favourite parts of the whole event, in any case.

Wolverine Moment: I don't know, Timber Wolf? Probably Timber Wolf.

Was Superman a Spy?

Hey hey hey! This is a more-words-than-pictures-style book by Brian “Comic Book Legends Revealed” Cronin. I just bought it last night so I haven’t really gotten a chance to read it yet but I’ve been enjoying his bunking or debunking of the urban legends of the comic scene for a couple of years now and can’t imagine that the transition from computer  to paper will make the contents any less delightful. Plus, the back cover blurb claims that there are a passel of new legends inside, so hooray for that. I’m a big fan of buying the book form of things that I enjoy on the Internet. If the DCU version of Johnathan managed to avoid getting Anti-Life Equationed during Final Crisis when the Internet got infected then you can bet a dollar that he was reading some Perry Bible Fellowship or the like in convenient book form. And now this lovely (did I mention the cover? The cover is very nice) volume can go on his “in case of event-related interweb failure” bookshelf!

Wolverine Moment: As I said, I haven’t read most of it yet. Pages 143 to 159 are devoted to the X-Men, though, so I bet that it’s in there.