Podcast - Episode 115: Best of the Rest

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We thought we'd give some of the OTHER comic book publishers some love this week. We don't hide the fact that this is primarily a superhero podcast, and that our first love is superhero-based comic books, but there are so many great comic book publishers and Dave is on the front lines of seeing what they are putting out each week, so we thought we'd check in. Most of them publish superhero books too!

Here's that delightful article about the drama that went down on the Jeremy Renner app. I'll miss that crazy app.

Thanks for listening!

Even When Stripped of His Fantastic Powers, John Buys Comics

I bought comics! And now you get to read about them!

Flashpoint No. 2 (and about a million miniseries) (DC)


Why it's Here: I'm honestly not sure. Is it because I feel like I should at least make a pass at reviewing DC's Summer crossover? Because I want to see what kind of tomfoolery is going to spark the Big Reset in September? Is it just that I'm a sucker for an alternate universe story? No idea.

Non Spoiler Summary: The Reverse Flash has messed with time and now Everything is Different and Crazy and Dark. Batman is Thomas Wayne! Atlantis done blowed up most of Europe! Dogs are marrying cats!

The Very Best Thing About It: There's a lot of decent alternate-universe-everything-is-different stuff going on: less-used characters like Shade the Changing Man and the Outsider rub elbows with interestingly-tweaked versions of old standards such as the five-kids-and-a-tiger version of Captain Marvel Thunder. Plus it's always fun to see Dr Thirteen.

The Very Worst Thing About It: It just feels a bit... tepid. A lot of the characters in this world have clear motivations (stop the war between Atlantis and the Amazons, don't get killed, steal things, etc) but the series itself lacks any sort of clear reason for being. The world has changed because Reverse Flash did... something, or a lot of things, right? And he did it to... mess with the Flash? To what end? Honestly, the Sadistic Mastermind Who Hatches Overly-Elaborate Schemes and Gloats All the Time villain archetype is near universally the most tedious and irritating thing in comics. Reverse Flash is Hush is terrible and the world that he has created has no dramatic reason to exist. If it wasn't being played up as a BIG! FAT! IMPORTANT! CROSSOVER! this could just be a standalone Flash story with no consequences outside of his own book, and not many there.

I might take all this back if some later issue reveals that, say, the absence of Barry Allen caused the heroes to lose during the original Crisis and this is the shitty final

Also, the entire series takes place at night or under heavy cloud cover. THE WORLD IS LITERALLY DARK and the symbolism heavy-handed.

Who Made It: A Geoff Johns joint. Plus a lot of artists and auxiliary writers.

Closing Comments: I'm going to give this thing a couple of more chances. This means that I am part of the event problem. I feel terrible about this.

The Tooth (Oni)


Why It's Here: It's an original graphic novel about an anthropomorphic tooth that fights monsters. That's amazing.

Non Spoiler Summary: Think old Man-Thing or Swamp Thing: the travels and travails of an improbable creature and its human cohorts in a world crawling with demons and monsters and dark science. And it's framed as a story arc in a long-running series, complete with letters pages and callbacks to non-existent continuity. Fun!

The Very Best Thing About It: That it's a pretty much perfect recreation of the Weird Wandering Monster subgenre from days of yore, complete with purple narration and crazy monsters and an internal mythology that makes things like a tooth monster that splits its time between killing things and living in a dude's mouth make sense.

The Very Worst Thing About It: My boss just expressed interest in the odd book sitting on my desk, whereupon I realized that there was no way for me to explain it to a layperson without sounding like a crazy man. That's unfortunate.

Who Made It: Cullen Bunn and Shawn Lee wrote it and Matt Kindt drawed it.

Isle of 100,000 Graves (Fantagraphics)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: It's a Jason comic. Do you like those? Then you will like this. Do you not like those? You won't like this. If you have no idea what I'm talking about... Do you like the idea of a slice-of-life story in a very strange setting where all of the characters are idiosyncratically-drawn anthropomorphic dogs and birds? Well there you go then.

50 Girls 50 (Image)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because there's only so much you can say about this story if you're not getting mad about it. It's got a dumb title (at least I think it does, because that's the way it's written in the indicia) and a generic sci-fi story with really nice art - the only really remarkable thing about it is the number of plot hoops that Doug Murray and Frank Cho jumped through in order to set up their cheesecake-fest. "Earth is starving and we need to find another planet! Look, a wormhole that messes up the Y chromosome - better send a spaceship full of hot science-babes to look for one." "Oh, no! This jungle planet we landed on has a crazy atmosphere that dissolves plastic! We are forced to wander around in tiny scraps of cloth and spear-fight giant insects until we can find a way off!" And so on. If Frank Cho's jungle ladies appeal to or repulse you, this book is likely to do the same.

Criminal: The Last of the Innocent (Icon)

Why I'm Keeping This Short: Because I foolishly have not read any Criminal before and I have no idea if discussing the plot of this issue will be spoilery. Succinctly, it is excellent.

John Buys Comics, Gets Around to Reading Them For Once

Firstly, though, a step back. Last week brought two delightful new additions to the ever-expanding John Lair’s library and I wanted to hearken back to them.

First up, Xenozoic, collecting Mark Schulz’s Xenozoic Tales series, which I for one had only ever encountered under the Cadillacs and Dinosaurs moniker up ‘til now, and despite the fact that that is a pretty good description of the series (there are classic cars! Dinosaurs abound!) I like the feel of the original better. It’s less Saturday morning cartoon and more pulpy high adventure, which is also a good description of the series. This is one of the most purely enjoyable things that I’ve bought in a while – humans plus dinosaurs plus strange science is almost always a winning combination, as far as I’m concerned.

And of course Superman vs. Muhammad Ali also came out last week. What a book! I would venture that DC pulled off one of the greatest Superman stories of all time here, an especially impressive feat in light of the fact that this is a book with a celebrity guest star, something that is frequently fraught with peril, but Superman and Ali both work so well both together and in concert, and (and this is important) in the context of a plot that is more than a shoddy background painting for the guest to be showcased in front of. Anyway, about a million nerds have already spouted off about how wonderful this thing is – I don’t have to bore you with yet another paean to its greatness.

I will, however, bring up just how supremely confident the Superman in this book is. Enough of these constant crises of identity and journeys of self-discovery, Clark! Be this guy again, because he is much more entertaining than you have been for a while now.


The Sixth Gun just finished its initial story arc, which means that we’ll be seeing a trade soon, which is terrific. I’ve already mentioned a lot of the things that endear this book to me – the complex morality of the protagonist, the creativity involved in introducing supernatural elements to the Western setting, etc. – but here’s another: with this sixth issue, Bunn and Hurtt have taken the settings and plot elements that they had established thusfar and blown most of them up. There’s character continuity, sure, but virtually everything else is going to be all shiny and new. I very much look forward to the new twists and turns and gunfighters and dry-gulchers.

And speaking of supernatural craziness, Hellboy: Double Feature of Evil came out this week, with art by Richard Corben. It’s excellent, with one of the best twists on the old haunted house story that I’ve seen in a long time, but more importantly it’s a new Hellboy book that someone can pick up without being invested in the series already, which important for those like me who have a twisted need to get their friends hooked on excellent series but know the pain of scaring them away with an enormous stack of trade paperbacks “for context”. Two new Hellboy yarns, some creepy art and my personal guarantee that at least one mummy gets punched out, how can you resist that? YOU CANNOT.

Batman, Batman, Batman. There is a lot of Batman coming out right now and I just keep on buying it, and probably will until it stops being good (and possibly beyond that and into terrible, if the fact that I’m still buying Superman is any indication). Heck, why should I stop? I love the idea of DC having more international heroes, more Batmen of All Nations, as long as they all have distinct identities like Mr. Unknown and the Knight and so forth and aren’t just a series of guys named Batman (or possibly Bat-hombre, Bat-chap and Bat-homme). 


And here's where I get to the part where my title starts to become a lie. I did actually read most of What I Did, the new hardcover collection of stories by John-favourite Jason and his melancholy bird- and dog-men. I haven't even opened Brian Talbot's Grandeville: Mon Amour, though, partially because I'm incredibly confident that it's going to be amazing but mostly because I did a lot of my reading on the bus today and I feared that the sexy badger-lady on the cover might get me some unwanted attention from the sarcastic teens in the next seat over.

And that is that. Good night.

John Buys Comics, the Thrilling Return

Back to the comic-buying grind again, oh what fresh stale hell is this. I kid, of course - if I got paid for this it would be the best job ever.

First, some Last Week's News, cold off the presses. Did you know that The Outfit came out last week? You probably knew that. But just in case you were, like me, out of touch for a time I will repeat myself: The Outfit came out last week! And on the off chance that you have no idea what I'm talking about: way back in the Sixties novelist Donald Westlake came up with a character named Parker and started writing novels about him under the pen name Richard Stark. Parker is basically a sonovabitch, a freelance thief who pulls two or three big jobs a year and spend the rest of the time living the high life in hotels and resorts around the world. Parker is basically an ultracompetent sociopath and is one of the most enjoyable characters in literature. The books typically feature Parker and a rotating series of other thieves pulling off one or more big scores, usually while Parker is simultaneously trying to solve some small complication in his life, like being blackmailed or having the mob put a price on his head. It's all pretty wonderful.


And now Darwyn Cooke is adapting the series into comic books, first with last year's The Hunter (also adapted into the Mel Gibson movie Payback, trivia fans) and now with The Outfit. And let me tell you, the right guy is on the job. Bothe Cooke and Westlake-as-Stark operate in a glorious Fifties-shading-into-Sixties aesthetic so very well, and as a result the books both look and read like they were written just for my nostalgia-riddled soul. And of course the violence (of which there is much) is marvellously choreographed. Really, the only bad thing about the whole thing is having to wait for the next instalment. Where's my instant gratification, dang it?

Even farther back, a whole two weeks ago, Fantagraphics Books came out with the amazing Four Color Fear, a book that would have made my month all by itself. More on this one in a later post - tis the season, after all. 


Batmans - Unless I missed an something in the confusion, the Scheduling Fairy has gotten drunk on her way to DC yet again. I mean, it's very possible that I did miss something, but shouldn't Bruce Wayne be returned to the DC Universe proper some time after the Return of Bruce Wayne series actually finishes? I guess it is awfully close, but having the penultimate issue of that particular series in the same pile of comics as the opening salvo of the Bruce Wayne: the Road Home event felt a little weird.

I can't get too worked up about the whole thing though, since The Road Home is following my very favourite event format and taking place in its own one-shots and minis instead of horning in on the associated ongoings that I enjoy so well unmolested. Way to diffuse my nerd-rage, DC.

Oh, the comics themselves? Not bad. The one-shots that I picked up were entertaining enough to justify their existence, which is always nice. I'd say pick 'em up if you're reading the associated series but don't feel left out if you don't. Meanwhile, The Return of Bruce Wayne didn't deliver awesome in quite the concentration that I'd gotten used to but that's to be expected with a next-to-last issue. Next issue: total awesomeness.

Wait, does Knight and Squire fit here? Sure it does. Here is the easy calculation to determine whether you should buy this issue: take the delight that you felt when you read the preview for this a couple of weeks ago - and both zero delight and negative delight count - and multiply it by five, because the whole issue is just exactly as wonderful. Then, simply follow your heart. Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton are doing a terrific job of expanding the British corner of the DCU its own distinct place, one that has more than just a handful of characters with accents. Instead, they are developing both a rich retroactive history and a distinctive cultural flavour for the British superfolk scene. Plus, you know, Knight and Squire, two of the most criminally underutilized characters in comics, get their day in the sun. Hooray!

And in further Batman news, Masks and Monsters, the latest Hellboy collection came out this week and it's great. It contains the Hellboy/Starman/Batman crossover which among other things features Mike Mignola drawing super-heroes, which is one of thie things that brings me the most joy in this life. If I were ever to get acquisitive enough to collect anything obsessively it would definitely be Mignola-style super-hero drawings. So delightfully barrel-chested!

I think that I'll leave it at that, or perhaps at bat. Old things and bat things. Let's call it a theme week.

John Buys Comics, Nation In Shock

I had a moment of panic when I looked over the enormous stack of comics that I hauled home this week. Somehow, the moons had aligned and the spirits of discord had looked the other way and sundry other events (one or two possibly even involving people in the comic book industry) had conspired to put out a hell of a lot of good comics all at once. Would I wear my typing fingers to the bone? How would I manage with just eight fingers?

Let’s watch!

The Man With the Getaway Face

I started reading the Parker novels when the Hunter adaptation came out last year, and if there is one person in the world that should be adapting them like this, it’s Darwyn Cooke. There’s a note at the beginning explaining why he isn’t giving this novel the full book treatment and then he boils the whole thing down into twenty or so pages that tell you everything you need to know but don’t feel like a summary.

Great. Now I can’t wait until October.

Superman No. 701

Hey, this comic! A lot of people are going to be talking about this comic! Heck, a lot are talking about how many people are going to be talking about it. Some common points:

- It’s been done! All-Star Superman, Hitman, Astro City’s Samaritan… all have tackled the issue of the omni-powerful man and his relationship with the common folk. There’s a pretty good chance that they did a better job. Heck, half of the point of Superman is that he’s so human despite being so alien.
- Superman kind of acts like an asshole. Maybe the fact that he seems smug and self-important half the time is a purposeful contrast to later issues, but I don’t know. He reads like he’s a fifteen year old who’s got it all figured out, man.
- Didn’t we just have a year without any Superman comics?

There are certainly more questions that could be raised – why doesn’t Superman just light heroin on fire all the time? Are you sure that he can combine his vision powers like that? Are there going to be a lot of issues featuring Superman walking through the desert or down a back road or something? – but I don’t have it in me. Mostly I want to know who’s idea it was to take Superman, make his comics really fun and interesting and then spend two years sapping all of the joy and punching out of them. If it is one person then they are a monster.

Catalog No. 439 (Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes)

I don’t know if your comic book store carried this, or if any of you are interested in a book that collects a wide selection of bizarre secret society initiation gags that the DeMoulin Brothers company peddled almost a century ago. There are, however, two things that I do know: 1. As soon as electricity became widely available, people began seeing the humour inherent in mildly electrocuting your friends.

2. No idea is entirely original.

I also never knew that having one’s genitals electrified would seem the better of a pair of options, but there you are.

The Bulletproof Coffin No. 2 – I find myself wanting to describe this book in “-esque” terms (Ditko-esque, Philip K Dick-esque, etc) but really, this book is a thing unto itself, which is pretty remarkable considering how densly packed with pop culture artefacts it is. But check out the superheroes that show up in this issue: they’re supposed to have originated in the Golden and Silver Ages and they hold up as such, but there’s nary a pastiche in sight. Neato!

R.E.B.E.L.S. No. 18 – I was a little worried for this title once the extended Starro the Conqueror storyline was over but it looks like Brainiac the first has made a remarkably seamless transition from the Superman books. Now I’m just worried because it’s a book that I like, so frequently a mark of death.

The Unwritten No. 15 – The literary conspiracy that is lurking in the shadows of this book has hatched a plan to capture Wilson Taylor by publishing a terrible fantasy novel under his name, thus luring him out of hiding. My question is: is it wrong for me to be enjoying the terrible cliché-fic so thoroughly? Because I find it both terrible and magnificent in its terribleness.

The Stuff of Legend Vol. II Part I – I’ve read/watched a surprising number of books/comics/movies that feature beloved childhood toys coming to life and roaming about, and I think that I might just be the best of the lot. I’m pretty sure that there is going to be a fantastic payoff at the end of this, something about the relationship between children and their toys. In the meantime, it fulfills two important criteria by being 1. extremely well-written and 2. a treat for the eyes. Also: who knew that a book operating almost entirely on the sepia colour scale could look so… colourful? Rich? Something like that.

Age of Reptiles No. 4 – While I am very sad that this latest miniseries is over, I rejoice in the fact that it contains what is quite possibly the best dinosaur fight in any comic ever. Richard Delgado is the champion of dinosaur comics – I can only hope for another Age of Reptiles series soon.

Daytripper No. 8 – I’m torn! This is such a marvellous comic that the fact that there are only two issues left should be haunting my dreams, yet the end of the series means that I will be able to sit down with the whole thing – hopefully in a big ‘ol softcover collection – and read it in one sitting. I am certain that this issue has seven or eight times more callbacks to prior instalments than I picked up on. Having the earlier issues on hand instead of buried in a box somewhere would be especially nice with this issue, as it’s the first one not to feature main character Brás. Instead, this issue showcases his impact on the lives of the people around him, all of whom we’ve met before. Hfreio

Booster Gold No. 34 – This issue is about one hair away from being completely gratuitous JLI goofiness, but it’s got Blue Beetle, Mister Miracle and Big Barda and they’re all not dead, so I’m willing to forgive.

Orc Stain No. 4 – The problem with this many good comics coming out in one week is that I run out of superlatives. Have I used magnificent yet? No? Orc Stain is magnificent. If you ever think that you might like to borrow money from me, try to time it to a week that this comic is coming out – I’ll probably still say no, but I’ll do it with a smile on my face.

The Sixth Gun No. 1, Officer Downe, Silver Agent No. 1 - I have squandered my time and these three worthy comics must make do with the briefest of reviews. In order: Old West occult action done right, super-pretty super-violence and one of my favourite characters gets to shine in a very fun comic. 

John Patriotically Buys Comics.

Because I got completely sidetracked and didn't write anything, here are last week’s comics, the highlights:

Bullet to the Head No. 1 – It’s hard to go wrong with a comic that kind of looks like a Seventies movie, featuring a pair of likeable cops trying to solve a crime committed by a pair of likeable hitmen. We saw the crime take place at the top of this issue, now it’s time for some Colombo-style trying to figure out how/if they’ll solve it.

Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne No. 3 – Time Travel Batman plus pirates equals megafun. That a series that started with Caveman Batman could keep getting better like this is a real achievement.

Power Girl No. 13 – You know what? For a regular issue of a series that commits the cardinal sin of spending a quarter of its pages reiterating what happened in another comic, this wasn’t bad. Of course, it looks like Winick’s next move is going to be the classic “completely explode everything that has been developed in the run up until now so that I can tell my own story” manoeuvre, but I won’t condemn him before he actually does it. In short: not as bad as everyone feared… yet.

Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark No 1 – I have a firm belief that some of the best and funniest ideas in the world start their lives as stupid jokes in friend-style conversations, so my affection for this comic started out a notch above where it might have been. “Bear in ocean, shark in woods – they got mixed up!” is just about all the background detail you need for a one-issue humourous comic. Add on the ridiculous background story and you’re done!

Superman No. 700  

Batman No. 700 took some flak for not being the best anniversary comic ever, but never fear: like the best bat-pal that he is, Superman will distract everyone with one that is downright terrible!

Not that the quality of the art or writing is that bad – here’s a rundown of the contents:

1. Story in which Lois and Clark reconnect and go on dates and stuff, wrapping up the last Superman event.
2. Story about Dick Grayson as Robin teaming up with Superman.
3. Story setting up next Superman event.

So, the two ends of the ongoing story arcs and an adorable story that was mostly about Robin and which, honestly, is just like a dozen other stories from the last five or six years. Terrific.

This Week:

Joker’s Asylum II: Clayface

I keep starting to type something about how it’s a shame that this is the final entry in this series, because it’s the weakest, but then I hesitate. I certainly enjoy Kelley Jones’ rendition of Batman, and there’s nothing wrong with the exploration of Basil Karlo’s motivation. Heck, I even like the ending better than I did the first time I read it.

I think that it’s the Joker’s role in the story, in that he has none. All of the previous issues of this series have featured him as an incredibly unreliable storyteller, someone who sets things up, puts his own spin on the issue, etc. This time, it might as well be the Cryptkeeper, except he doesn’t even get to deploy terrible puns. Bah, I say.

Werewolves of Montpellier

Odds are pretty good that you either love Jason or have no idea who he is. If you fall into the latter camp… Remember in Strange Tales, the one where Spider-Man wants to get into a bar fight, and also everyone is dogs and birds and dogs? Yeah, that guy. Everything he does is so… melancholy, but with moments of hilarity. And also, everyone is dogs and birds. He’s one of the most unique creators in comics today and I can’t believe that it took me so long to start picking up his books.

Werewolves of Montpellier is about a thief who dresses up like a werewolf, his unrequited love for his gay friend/neighbour and the real werewolves who object to the high profile that he’s bringing to their kind. It’s melancholy and hilarious and everybody is birds and dogs. Honestly, if you're not convinced already i don't know what to say.

Abe Sapien: The Abyssal Plain No. 1 – I just read Charles Stross’ The Jennifer Morgue again, so I’m already all skeezy about the very things that this comic is about: death and danger at an unhealthy oceanic depth. The Peter Stejbjerg/Dave Stewart visuals here are only serving to freak me out further. Good job!

Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension No 4 – I declare this series a resounding success! Heck, even if it hadn’t been a complete joy to read and set up half a dozen sure-to-be-entertaining plot hooks, the Dr Dinosaur issue alone would have justified a series 5 to 7 times the size of this one.

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island No. 2 – Why is it that I can be so excited by electricity in a comic book while simultaneously being completely surrounded by it at home? Maybe I need more visible blue arcs in my life.

Green lantern No. 55 – We all know that the best new character in DC Comics over the lat few years has been Larfleeze, the Orange Lantern. I think that the heart-warming/rending origin in this here comic cements Red Lantern Dex-Star as number two.

Turf No. 2 – Is it going to surprise anyone if I describe a comic that features gangsters and aliens versus vampires as completely awesome? No? Probably for the best.