What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – March 2019

“There is only one sure means in life,” Deasey said, “of ensuring that you are not ground into paste by disappointment, futility, and disillusion. And that is always to ensure, to the utmost of your ability, that you are doing it solely for the money.” (Michael Chabon, from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay)

Out of Oz (HarperCollins).

The final book of Gregory Maguire’s Oz tetrarchy doesn’t exactly wrap everything up, but that makes it more interesting, because real life never wraps up, does it? Maguire tells the story of Rain, the granddaughter of the Wicked Witch, who inherited some of the witch’s tendencies and is thrust into the civil war that comes to a head in this book after Maguire has been teasing it for the first three books. Rain isn’t the only character, obviously – the others from the first three books congregate around her, with Dorothy Gale returning to Oz as well, which turns out to be a bit of a letdown. Maguire feints toward making this Dorothy’s story, but it never is, and she seems a bit irrelevant to it all. Maguire brings about the end of the civil war, but the theme of the book is Rain trying to find a family, and that’s partly why Dorothy is in the book, as she is like Rain in that she’s separated from her family and still doesn’t feel like her aunt and uncle are really part of it, even though she knows they’ve tried. So Rain and everyone else is looking for a place to belong, and what’s nice about the book is that Maguire doesn’t give everyone a happy ending or even a sad ending – some stories just end. His writing remains good but not great, and his command of the geography of Oz is excellent – it feels like a real, if slightly strange, place, and he writes without mercy, turning Dorothy (for instance) into an actual person, with both good and bad qualities. Maguire is also very interested in identity (which goes along with the search for a family, as identity is so tied up with whom you associate), and in this book two major characters change their identities quite severely, which cuts them off from any support system. I was a bit disappointed by the Chekov’s gun of the ending, where something that had been teased the entire saga was brought to fruition, and even more so because the way Maguire brought it about didn’t make much sense. But as part of the theme of the book, it worked quite well, I just didn’t love the obvious inevitability of it all. Overall, this is a good series of books – entertaining, interesting, philosophical at times, exciting at times, and while flawed, they give us a fascinating portrait into a fantasy world and how the reality never lives up to it. Maguire’s whole thing is taking familiar public domain stuff and putting interesting spins on them, but it’s interesting to note that he’s not a bad writer and would probably do well without that schtick. We’ll see if he ever steps beyond it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Catwoman by Jim Balent volume 2 (DC).

It’s always impressive to think about Jim Balent’s run on Catwoman, because the dude just cranked out issue after issue, month after month, and the quality never really dipped. You might not like Balent’s art, and that’s fine, but you can’t say that one issue of Catwoman was far worse-looking than any other, because Balent was just like a machine. He occasionally needed some more inkers to help him out, but his speed was still impressive, especially as the comics are fairly detailed. His women – especially Selina – are far too buxom and tiny-waisted, but Selina is also extremely feline, and Balent does wonderful work with the action in these comics, moving her over the page with grace and fluidity. He should probably get more credit for his storytelling – a lot of faces in this collection are just screaming in fear, but Selina is often enjoying herself immensely, and Balent shows that very well in the way her eyes light up or she smiles as she’s beating men to a pulp. The stories do take some dark turns, and Balent is good at showing that on his characters’ faces, as well, but the way he draws the star is fascinating, because she always looks like she’s scheming, which she usually is. Balent does a good job bringing the art into alignment with the words. Even in a comic where it’s pretty clear he was sketching a bit more – Catwoman Annual #2, the “Year One” annual – his layouts are really good and his line work is strong enough that James Hodgkins, who inks it, doesn’t overwhelm the “Balent-ness” of the art (it’s possible, too, that Balent was trying to draw more like David Mazzucchelli, since the annual is a riff on Batman #404-407, and if that’s so, Balent is even more talented than he’s given credit for).

Balent is the big draw of the collection, but the stories are good, too. The first issue of the collection is the “Zero Hour” issue, which is bizarre and ends on a cliffhanger that does not get resolved in the pages of this series, so it’s a bit annoying. The next one is the zero issue, and it’s fine. Jo Duffy and Doug Moench write those, and then Chuck Dixon comes on for an international crime thriller, because if there’s one dude in the 1990s you wanted writing international crime thrillers, it was probably Chuck Dixon! He writes two longer arcs, and then Deborah Pomerantz comes on for the final arc (it’s interesting that DC did employ two women to write issues of Catwoman). They’re generally exciting, entertaining stories – nothing too stunning, but pretty good. They give Balent a lot of cool shit to draw, so that’s all right.

These aren’t great comics by any means, but they are pretty good. If you weren’t buying Catwoman in the 1990s, you can catch up now!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel (in honor of Jan-Michael Vincent, all totally Airwolf panels this month will be somehow related to Airwolf or Jan-Michael Vincent):

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The Last Siege (Image).

The Last Siege is basically a “what if” story (I know, aren’t they all?) in which Genghis Khan invades England. I mean, if that doesn’t get you interested, I doubt if anything can! At the very beginning, one small castle and its lands still stands against the might of the invader (who’s not called “Genghis Khan,” naturally, or even “Temujin”), and the only heir is a tween girl. Soldiers in the village are planning on taking over and handing the castle over, but then a mysterious stranger arrives with a letter from the dead king, naming him regent. The stranger immediately begins to plan to resist the attack despite the odds against him and one of the two clerics in the castle advising him to surrender. He has to deal with the original soldiers who were planning on seizing the castle and then the invader himself, and things get extremely bloody, as you might expect.

Landry Walker is a fine writer, and he does a good job with the book. There are secrets about both main characters, but he plays it out quickly and logically, so we see how they’re tied to each other and why the stranger in the castle wants to resist the invader. The book is packed with action, so there’s not too much space for character development, but we do get some, and it humanizes the characters enough to make us care about their fate. Even the invader isn’t some faceless monster, so when he does arrive, the stakes feel even higher. The heir to the throne is interesting – she doesn’t have much to do early in the book, but when she steps into the spotlight, we can see that Walker was placing her in spots where she could learn about being a leader. Justin Greenwood’s art is quite nice – he uses rougher lines than he has in the past, which makes the medieval setting feel more real, and his battle scenes, which take up much of the second half of the comic, are brutal. Eric Jones colors the early issues, and he uses a lot of shading, which works pretty well with Greenwood’s pencils. Brad Simpson, who comes on for the second half, is a bit more traditional, so his colors are a bit flatter, but he doesn’t have quite as much to do, as he’s using a lot of yellows, reds, and oranges, as so much is on fire in the battle. It’s a very nice-looking book, and while it’s not completely historically accurate (something Walker cops to in the introduction, because he’s there to entertain, not to educate!), it feels like it’s historically accurate, and in a fictional story, that’s good.

I’m inclined to like this, with my background, but it’s still a very tense adventure. Check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl volume 10: Life is Too Short, Squirrel (Marvel).

Squirrel Girl is superb, possibly the best comic Marvel is publishing currently, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all, which is nice since it lost its original artist, Erica Henderson. There’s not really much to say about any one trade, because they’re all so good – Ryan North puts Squirrel Girl and her friends in a bad situation, and they usually think their way out of it rather than punching their way out of it, although some punching is occasionally involved. This time, it’s a Skrull problem, and it’s clever that Iron Man is such a big presence in the book, because he’s very anti-Skrull (not surprisingly), while Doreen and her friends aren’t necessarily pro-Skrull, just pro-listening-before-punching. Iron Man wants to punch the Skrull, but Doreen wants to listen to her. North puts them through their paces trying to figure out what’s going on (the book begins with Squirrel Girl’s funeral, despite the fact that she’s not dead, which puts her on the imposter’s trail), and it’s very clever and funny, and then he figures out a good solution that doesn’t involve punching the Skrull. There’s also a very funny issue with the Quizzler and Nancy getting trapped with Peter Parker, in which she almost figures out Peter’s secret identity before Spider-Man shows up at the same time as Peter is standing there (I don’t know what’s going on with Spider-Man these days, so I won’t ask). All in all, this is just another terrific collection of Squirrel Girl comics. Like the other nine volumes have been!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Weatherman volume 1 (Image).

I’m a big fan of Nathan Fox, so I knew I would be getting this trade when the series was first announced, and Fox doesn’t disappoint. His art is crazy and frenetic, full of weird and wonderful details, excellent chases and action scenes, and surprisingly brutal violence (it’s always surprising to see Fox draw violence so well, because his art is so cartoony, but he really gets the brutality of it all and makes it far less fun than you might expect). His character designs are great, and his expansive line work makes his characters react to situations with big, expressive faces and body language, which makes every panel, almost, an event. Even his sound effects are the best this side of Walt Simonson. Dave Stewart’s vivid colors add to the immersive experience of the art, as he turns Mars into a fascinating, terra-formed wonderland that nevertheless exists right on the edge of the harsh original Martian landscape. Jody LeHeup’s story is pretty good, too. Nathan Bright is a popular weatherman on Mars, where most of humanity now lives after a terrorist attack a few years earlier killed almost everyone on Earth. A girl he’s casually dating turns out to be a secret agent, bringing him to justice because he’s the one who planned the attack and then he removed his own memory and created a new persona simply to hide from the authorities. Now everyone is after him, and Amanda – his fake girlfriend – is the only one who can keep him alive, because Nathan doesn’t possess any of the skills that made him such a great soldier (or rather, he does, but he can’t access them).

It’s a good story, as Nathan – or at least the person he once was – is a monster, but is Nathan one, too? Plus, it seems that the terrorist group that killed the Earth isn’t quite done, as they think humanity is the problem, so Nathan might be the only one who can stop them. But he can’t get to his memories, to that’s an issue. I wasn’t aware that this series would be longer than six issues, but it is, as it ends on a cliffhanger. LeHeup does a nice job building to it, and he gives us a lot of crazy characters that speed the action along while never losing sight of Nathan’s problem. The way he humanizes Nathan makes the book work a lot better than it might, as Nathan is as horrified by anyone over what he’s done, and he can’t even remember it. So through all the mayhem, there’s a nice heart of the book of a person forced to reckon with the fact that he might be a monster but which he can’t reconcile with who he is. It’s nicely done. (I do have a bit of a problem with the fact that Nathan looks like he’s in his mid-20s and he was a decorated soldier for several years before the attack and it’s been seven years since, but I suppose it’s 700 years in the future and plastic surgery has advanced quite a bit.)

I hope that the next arc begins soon, because this is a neat book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

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Wolverine Epic Collection volume 2: Back to Basics (Marvel).

This volume is subtitled, as you can see, “Back to Basics.” Implying that Wolverine’s adventures had gotten too weird, I suppose? He wasn’t simply living his best life, slashing regular bad guys with his claws and schtupping Tyger Tiger in his spare time? Is that what Marvel is implying? Because in this volume, we get two Wolverine graphic novels (I’ll get back to them), and then a SEVEN-PART STORY in which Wolverine … fights a giant virus left over from the time of the Celestials. Back to basics, indeed!

This is a fun collection, though. We begin with the Archie Goodwin-Howard Chaykin GN, The Scorpio Connection, in which Logan and Nick Fury chase a terrorist all over the world. Chaykin art from the 1980s is always fun to see, and Goodwin is a fine writer, so the book hums along nicely. Then we get Walt Simonson throwing Logan into the Savage Land, where he fights Apocalypse, and it’s all wonderfully rendered by Mike Mignola. Goodwin writes the virus-fighting epic, which is in Wolverine #17-23, and it’s drawn by John Byrne with inks by Klaus Janson, which is a fascinating combination. It’s a good story, with Wolverine heading to a small Central American country, where he fights Tiger Shark (“Acts of Vengeance” 4EVA, yo!), helps with a revolution led by a young mutant whose power is fueled by acclaim from the crowd (whatever happened to La Bandera, anyway? … oh, Mark Gruenwald, you didn’t!), gets chummy with a nun, and tries to kill an old Nazi. You know, the basics! Peter David and Gene Colan give us a single-issue story full of Davidian irony, about an assassin with a bomb, Jo Duffy and John Buscema do a story in which Logan bonds with a kid, and then Duffy and Janson give us a story in which Logan upholds the honor of a dead friend. Those stories are very “back-to-basic,” and quite good. Finally, we get the four-part “Lazarus Project” by Duffy and a few artists – Buscema, a young Barry Kitson (he had done mostly British work before this, but also some Action Comics and L.E.G.I.O.N. stuff), and Bill Jaaska. It’s not as good, simply because the art is slightly wonky (not necessarily bad, but Keith Williams and Al Milgrom inking Kitson isn’t great, and Jaaska is the very definition of “workmanlike”) and Duffy’s story is a bit weird, with what seems like it-should-be-a-much-more-important-than-it-is MacGuffin. It’s entertaining enough, but just that. Overall, this is a pretty good collection, back when writers cared about explaining why Wolverine wasn’t hanging around the X-Men (this takes place right around the time when Claremont was wrecking the team, around issues #247-251, so he would have been a boon to them), and it has some fun stuff, so if you’ve been putting off tracking some of these issues down, now they’re collected in a nice big book!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

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Domino volume 2: Soldier of Fortune (Marvel).

I liked the first trade of Domino, so I got this one, but it’s not as good, and I wonder if the imminence of cancellation caused that, as Simone was trying to wrap things up too quickly. The stories feel a bit too short, especially the final one, in which Domino and her pals try to save Longshot’s life. Each of the stories in this trade are two issues each (it collects issues #7-10 plus an Annual), and both could have been three issues, easily (probably not more, though). So why Marvel didn’t let Simone get a few extra issues out, especially as they simply rebooted the title into a five-issue mini-series with the exact same creative team, is a mystery.

It’s not a bad trade, per se, just a bit of empty calories. The Annual is a bunch of different stories about Domino getting her team together and interacting with some X-dudes, most notable Cable and Colossus. The only story that has legs is Kurt’s idea for a support group for mutants who can’t easily blend, because I love stories about the way unusual characters in the Marvel Universe (which includes mutants but could also include superheroes) fit into society. I mean, there’s a Stacy X sighting in this story! The two stories are fine – Domino and the gang are hired to pick up a box in Norway with the caveat that they’re not supposed to open it, but of course they do and they find Morbius inside. Morbius tells them that some vampires are trying to use him to spread their vampire plague, but he’s the only one who can stop it, and stop it they do. Then Longshot is apparently going to be responsible for the destruction of the world, but instead of killing him, Domino realizes he’s sick and saves him, changing the future that was foreseen. Again, both stories are perfectly fine, but they feel a bit perfunctory, especially issue #10, in which our heroes speed through a plot that seems a lot more ripe for complication than Simone gives it. I mean, if you know you’re getting cancelled, why start a new plot anyway? Just have the characters sit around shooting the shit for a while. Nobody is reading the book anyway except for weirdos like me, so who cares what you do, really?

Simone and David Baldeón are good creators, but an ongoing starring Domino is always going to be a tough sell. I’ll probably buy the mini-series in trade, because this is a good team and the stories are fine and maybe it will be better because it’s five issues, so Simone knows how much room she has. We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Gambit: Thieves’ World (Marvel).

My hatred of Gambit as a character is legendary (the internet is abuzz about it!), so why would I purchase a twelve-issue trade starring the character everyone loves to hate? Well, last year I thought that Kelly Thompson might make me love Gambit, so I bought the mini-series she wrote about him and Rogue, and she did not make me love Gambit. With this trade, I wanted to see if John Layman, who is another of my favorite writers, could make me love Gambit. This collects the entirety of his 2004-2005 series, drawn mostly by Georges Jeanty. Did it make me love Gambit? Well … not exactly, but I will say that Layman comes as close as anyone could! The thing I like about Layman’s Gambit is that Layman leans into Remy’s natural douchiness. Gambit is a pussy hound, and writers’ attempts to make him less of one make him nobler, sure, but also very much more boring. That’s why I hope his marriage to Rogue ends with him cheating on her, because of course he’s going to cheat on her! He “cheats” on her in this series (it’s not clear whether they’re together or not, but he goes to great lengths to make sure she doesn’t find out about it), and that plus his general douchiness makes this a more entertaining series. It’s still not enough to make him a good character, but it’s more interesting than the tortured noble soul that so many writers have tried to turn him into over the years. Gambit is a dick frat-boy on the side of angels. That’s a perfectly fine thing for him to be!

So in this series, we get his scheme to steal a very powerful deck of tarot cards and the obstacles he faces with that, and he calls in Wolverine in issue #5 for, frankly, a brilliant issue (from the X-Man bad guy fanboy who tries to explain to his boss who Wolverine is and why it’s very, very bad that he’s involved to Gambit making Logan disguise himself as different X-Men, it’s clear that Layman’s sense of humor didn’t spring full-blown when he started writing Chew). Then we get a new mutant in New Orleans who gets killed, which means it turns into a zombie story. Layman creates a wildly crooked hot cop to the series, and I would love it if she showed up more often (it appears she’s never been used since this series, but she just gets arrested in this series, so she’s still kicking around in the Marvel U!). Zombies also means Brother Voodoo shows up, so that’s nice. Finally, Gambit breaks into the X-Mansion to steal a DVD on which is evidence that he was banging someone behind Rogue’s back, and then Belladonna, his ex-wife, re-appears, and there’s a two-issue story in which there are all sorts of double-crosses, because of course there are. It’s a fun series, and despite highlighting some of the worst aspects of Gambit’s background (Belladonna and the whole guild system of N’Awlins, yuck), it’s entertaining. Jeanty and Roger Robinson do good work on the art, and there are a lot of nice moments. It’s 30 dollars for 12 issues (plus a short story from X-Men Unlimited), which isn’t bad. So if you enjoy Layman’s writing (and you really should), it’s something to check out. It might even make you hate Gambit just a tiny little bit less!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mata Hari (Dark Horse).

Mata Hari is an odd comic, in that it’s unclear what it wants to be. First of all, it’s gorgeous – Ariela Kristantina is a very good artist, as she has a nice grasp of realism married to a stylish design sense, so her “Mata Hari” becomes an almost god-like figure in contrast to the down-to-earth Margaretha Geertruida Zelle-MacLoed. She skirts a bit too close to an Orientalist rendering of Indonesia, in the “noble savage” sense (this is a bit of an issue with Emma Beeby’s script, too), but the comic stays on the non-clichéd side of that divide, and it adds to the mystery surrounding the protagonist. Margaretha is more attractive in the comics than in real life, but that’s not surprising, but Kristantina doesn’t make her an unearthly beauty – she looks very much like a real woman, and it makes the scenes with her as “Mata Hari” stand out even more. But I’d like to point out that Kristantina is a woman, and she’s also Indonesian, while colorist Pat Masioni is a black man from Congo. There’s a lot to be said for diversity in what shows up on the pages of comics, but I’ve always argued that in terms of the real world, it’s much better to simply hire more diverse creators. So this is a pretty cool comic in that regard.

The oddity of it doesn’t exactly make it a bad comic; in fact, I would argue it makes it more intriguing. Beeby isn’t really that interested in whether Zelle sold secrets to the Germans (possibly because it’s unclear whether she did or not), even though the book revolves around her trial. She adds some asides in which Mata Hari is petitioning Shiva, but it’s never stated if this is something she actually does or something she dreams about (I’d go with the latter, but it might be real). Beeby points out in the afterword that Zelle is not a “role model” for women, as she was not a suffragette and didn’t seem to care about the plight of other women. She is portrayed in the book as extremely selfish, so it’s hard to be sympathetic toward her even though it’s clear she’s being railroaded at the trial and throughout her life because she’s a woman. The book is fascinating because of that – she doesn’t necessarily act any worse than the men in the story, but of course she’s punished for her behavior but the men aren’t. She uses her feminine wiles to get some of the things she wants, but her foundation is always weak, and while some of the men in the story get punished (her husband, for example, who’s far worse of a person than she is), they also get more chances and their positions are stronger even as they themselves might be weak. So it’s an unusual critique of society in that Mata Hari wasn’t a terribly “good” person, but that doesn’t mean should she have been paraded in front of a firing squad. Beeby tells the story by jumping back and forth in time, so we gradually find out what shaped Zelle into the person she was in 1917, and it’s an interesting journey.

Mata Hari is a good comic, partly because it tells a good story and partly because it doesn’t tell it in an easy way. It makes us confront the way we treat the marginal in society in ways that aren’t exactly easy, which is difficult to do. But Beeby does a good job with it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Prisoner: Shattered Visage (Titan Comics).

This is a collection of the DC series from the 1980s, which is nice to have in trade. I have never watched The Prisoner (well, except for the totally awesome Jim Caviezel/Ian McKellan/Ruth Wilson/Hayley Atwell/Lennie James 2006 mini-series!), but I’ve bought more than one series based on it, which is weird (to me, at least). This is a sequel to the television series, as Number Two, who has been in prison for twenty years, is getting out and has written a book about the Village (at least I think Number Two wrote it; I could be wrong) that has gotten British Intelligence all in a dither. A former secret agent washes up on the shore of the island and meets two mysterious dudes who appear to be adversaries, while in London, her ex-husband tries to figure out what’s going on. In the Village, Alice ends up experiencing some of the disorienting things that I guess happened to Number Six in the television show (she’s even called Number Six by one of the men, and don’t think we didn’t pick up that she’s called “Alice,” either!), and no one answers her questions. This reads a bit like a Le Carré book (I’m pretty sure Dean Motter meant to reference George Smiley in this comic, which would mean it takes place in the same universe as many of Le Carré’s books) in that nobody says what the mean and things move glacially, which makes it a less-than-successful comic, unfortunately. It looks fine (Motter’s rough pencils help blend the pencils in with the photographs he uses to create the Village), and it has a good atmosphere to it, but ultimately it seems pointless. Is the final plot point there because it was supposed to be there from the beginning, or is it just the desperate last throw of a desperate man? Why is Alice on the island, anyway, and why does British Intelligence care that much? It seems like Alice’s ex-husband might be in some hot water with his bosses, but that’s brushed aside to focus on the Village. It just seems like Motter, Mark Askwith, and DC wanted to do a sequel to The Prisoner but didn’t think much about it beyond the structure of the book. It’s kind of just … there.

Oh well. It’s interesting to look at, and I always like spycraft stories, even if they lead nowhere. Espionage stuff, to me, is inherently interesting. I just wish Motter and Askwith had been able to pull it off better.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

She Could Fly (Dark Horse).

People must think Martín Morazzo is perfect for creepy, occasionally gory comics, because everything I’ve seen from him so far in his career is in that vein, and She Could Fly, despite its lofty title and premise, is often creepy and occasionally gory. It’s a pretty good story, although it seems to end suddenly, as if writer Christopher Cantwell wasn’t sure how to resolve everything really well so he just tied things off and called it a day. The premise is solid – a woman suddenly appears over the skies of Chicago, flying, and Luna Brewster becomes obsessed with her. Then, just as suddenly, she explodes, and Luna becomes even more obsessed with finding out who the woman was and how she could fly. Unfortunately, that gets her involved in a plot about the reasons the woman could fly, and things get bloody. Even before that, Luna has visions that are creepy and occasionally gory, and the real theme of the book is how someone deals with a mental illness and the way society treats those with mental illnesses, especially undiagnosed ones. Luna (a bit of an on-the-nose name, given that “lunatic” is derived from it) goes to sessions with a guidance counselor/therapist, but she imagines doing horrible things to the counselor, her family, and many other people in her life. She doesn’t know how to handle it, hoping that the visions will just go away. The flying woman offers her a hope for escape, but Cantwell does a good job showing that it’s a false hope, because you can’t fly away from your problems. It’s actually a bit more subtle than that, as Cantwell does a good job distracting us with the real-world implications of someone who can fly and how the government is involved and all that, but when he keeps the focus on Luna, the book is quite good. When he gets into the bigger plot, it becomes a bit sillier, and he doesn’t try to disguise that the flying apparatus is a MacGuffin, which is a bit annoying. But Luna’s journey is fascinating, as she has to reach a point where she’s ready to face the real world and what her thoughts mean in the real world.

Morazzo’s thin, crisp line means that his weird stuff is in bold focus, which makes it even creepier and gorier. When he draws heads exploding, he draws all the viscera flying out of the skull in precise detail, which is fun. He’s very good at drawing real-looking people, with all their odd foibles, and it makes the book work much better. Even the bad guys aren’t just faceless killers, they each have a visual personality that shows that they’re human, despite being horrible. Morazzo does nice work on everything he draws, and he does so here.

Cantwell wraps things up far too quickly, which is unfortunate. It feels like he could have gotten five issues out of the story instead of four (despite each issue being a bit longer than your usual comic; each issue is 32 pages of story) and slowed the climax down just a little, as it feels a bit perfunctory. But the heart of the story, Luna’s illness, is told well, so I guess there’s that. This is a fascinating comic with a lot to recommend about it, despite some problems. It’s something you don’t see every day, and Cantwell does some nice work on it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

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Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth (Bodleian Library).

When I was in England last summer, we took a day trip to Oxford, where I discovered that the Bodleian Library was holding an exhibit on J.R.R. Tolkien, showing a ton of personal papers and such. I have always been a Tolkien nut – honestly, The Lord of the Rings has pretty much ruined fantasy books for me, as they’re all riffs on that – so I wanted to go and check it out. Unfortunately, all the tickets for that day had been sold, so I was SOL. However, at the bookstore, they had this book, which simply shows all the items in the collection with text to go with them. It was far too heavy to take home with me in my luggage, so my lovely wife got it for me for Christmas. And now I’ve read it!

This is a cool book for Tolkien fans, as it begins with a bunch of essays about Tolkien’s life and influences – his friendship with C.S. Lewis, for instance, or how he invented languages or why he studied “northern” mythology. Then it gets into the stuff in the exhibit – many letters, both to and from Tolkien, from admirers and friends and literary agents, to fans and family members. We get family photos from when he was young, and his own family when he was older. Tolkien was a fairly skilled artist, so we get a lot of his drawings and paintings, some of which were used in the books and some of which were just to give him an idea of what everything looked like. He designed the original dust jacket for The Hobbit, for instance, which is incredibly iconic and absolutely beautiful. The book (and the exhibit, I imagine) gets into Tolkien’s mind very well, so you can see what inspired him and how the books evolved over decades and how steeped in the mythology he was, as he invented so much that never made it into the books but still provided a marvelous back story to it all. I love maps, and the final section of the book is dedicated to the maps he drew over the course of his life. I was actually a little disappointed because there weren’t more maps of Beleriand and Númenor, but it’s possible that Tolkien didn’t draw as many of those because he never got to finish The Silmarillion (the book does have some maps of those regions, but they’re fairly rough). But the maps of Middle-Earth in the Third Age are so much fun to pore over, as Tolkien’s notes give such a good idea of how he changed them and how he refined them into what they looked like at publication. The entire book is worth a look, but the map section is my favorite part.

The exhibit is at the Morgan Library in New York right now (it runs through 12 May), and if you have a chance to check it out, I would encourage it. If you don’t have the chance, you can always get this book! It’s really a cool thing if you’re a Tolkien fan.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

The Spirit: The Corpse-Makers (Dynamite).

I will buy pretty much everything Francesco Francavilla draws, but it’s a bit frustrating, because while he’s a decent writer, he’s not the greatest one, so his books are gorgeous to look at but they are often fairly by-the-book. Now, he loves noir-ish stories, and so do I, so it’s not that big a deal, but it’s still a thing. In this comic (which took, if I recall correctly, forever to come out), the Spirit gets caught up in a plot by bad guys to steal bodies from the morgue or, of course, create the supply themselves. It’s all very mysterious, but as you read, its fairly easy to figure out why they’re being stolen and even who’s behind it all. The story is exciting, but not particularly great. So sad.

That leaves the art, which is stunning as usual. Francavilla is great for any character with noir influences, and while the Spirit might not have started off that way, he’s certainly become a character that lives in the darkness and on the edges, so he’s well-suited for a noir kind of tale. Francavilla’s designs are always amazing, and he gives Central City a nice, timeless kind of feel – the cars are all from the 1940s/1950s, but the characterizations are more modern, as is the appearance of a female private investigator who’s of uncertain ethnicity. Francavilla, as always, does marvelous work on the action scenes, and he’s brilliant at creating a heightened, creepy atmosphere, even when it’s not raining in Central City (which, in this comic, it often is). His coloring is always on point, and he saturates the comic in blue so that the complementary yellows, oranges, and stark reds stand out even more. As the Spirit gets closer to the center of the mystery, the red becomes more and more powerful, which is a nice choice. Francavilla is a terrific colorist, and the book reflects that.

I would like it if Francavilla were a better writer or if he worked with a better writer, but his art is so good I don’t hold it too much against him. This is a very cool book, and as long as DC continues to be run by idiots who don’t hire Francavilla to do a “Batman ’72” comic, we need to appreciate the work he does do!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Trout: Bits and Bobs (Dark Horse).

Troy Nixey is a very good artist, but like Francesco Francavilla right above this, he’s not the greatest writer. But he has a nice oddball sensibility which makes his stories bizarre even if they’re not great, and this collection is a good example of that. His character, a mostly mute boy named Trout, gets into weird situations and just generally waits around for them to sort themselves out, which makes for interesting set-ups but kind of dull resolutions. His guardian, a kindly gentleman named Lint, tends to do most of the talking in their relationship and also is far more active, as Trout would, it seems, be perfectly happy to sit in his room all the time. In the first story here (which originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents in 1999), Trout somehow brings all his bad thoughts to life, and the creature it becomes simply wanders off and starts eating people. Eventually Trout saves the day, but in a fairly anticlimactic way. In the second story (which was published by Oni in 2001), Lint allows a puppet show to be put on in the town square, and as we all know from fiction, puppet shows are terrifying and evil. The night after the show, the puppeteer lures all the children of the town to his hideout and steals their souls. Only Trout is spared, but the puppet master doesn’t understand why. Lint and some adults eventually find Trout, but this time the boy is even more passive, simply waiting out the puppeteer. Neither story has what you’d call a happy ending, but the tragedies in both are so muted it’s almost inconsequential. Nixey might simply be writing these stories to work on art, because the art is wonderful. He’s obviously influenced by Mike Mignola, even though his line work is far more detailed than Mignola’s, but his sensibility is very much like Mignola’s. His people are strangely shaped and wear outlandish clothing, his evil things are even more misshapen and twisted, giving them a truly harrowing look, and Nixey sets it all in a bucolic but bizarre town, out of step with the modern world. It’s interesting watching his work evolve – the first story is much more intricately drawn, as Nixey felt he needed to hatch excessively, but by the second story, he’s learned he doesn’t really need to do that, and while his work is still very detailed, it’s not quite as busy, and he’s better at using blacks to suggest mood. His creation of the music that lures the children away, in which he begins with actual musical notes but them adds many stranger symbols, suggesting an otherworldly tune, is just one of the small details that make looking at one of his comics so fun.

Nixey doesn’t do quite as many comics as I’d like, but what he does is worth a look. Despite the somewhat disappointing endings, these stories are creepy and fun, with amazing artwork. That’s not bad at all!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Athena Voltaire #5-8 (Action Lab).

It’s really a joy to read Athena Voltaire, because Steve Bryant leans into the ridiculousness of it all so well, even while keeping the tone somewhat serious – I mean, the Nazis are usually the villains, but Bryant does well to keep them as “evil dudes who want to take over the world using mystical shit” rather than “evil dudes who want to exterminate anyone who doesn’t conform to their narrow stereotype of the perfect person.” The latter version doesn’t really work in adventure fiction, but the former does, and that characterization, while leaving out the most vile parts of Nazism (are there any good parts of Nazism, you might ask), makes them just good villains while readers can fill in the blanks with what they will do once they take over the world. Bryant also leans into the goofiness with each plot, because he never forgets all of the other stories Athena has been involved in, so the accretion of artifacts that can cause global disasters and the way certain locations always figure into the equation is a bit of a joke in this arc, as well, as we get a story of Da Vinci’s journal, which Athena needs to track down. The journal is a bit of a MacGuffin, of course, but it leads to underground chambers, exotic locations (you can’t go wrong sending your adventurers to Shanghai in the 1930s, it seems), walls lined with skulls, a Nazi with bandages wrapping his head so he looks like Larry Trainor, spooky mountain caves, scary rituals, and undead bad guys. You know, just the sort of thing you expect. It’s predictable, but it’s also predictably entertaining, as Bryant keeps things moving along, adding just enough characterization so that we care about what happens when Athena isn’t hunting bad guys (I mean, it’s a given she’s going to stop the Nazis, so what happens around that is the interesting part). Bryant doesn’t make these arcs stand completely along, so while they tell a relatively stand-alone story, he also adds nice tidbits to what we’ve already learned about Athena and her world.

This arc was very late, and I don’t know why. Yusuf Idris does fine work on the pencils, and I have no idea if that part of the work was slow or if Bryant got behind with the script. I do hope that the series can continue – Athena Voltaire isn’t going to change the world, but it’s a very fun, pulpy adventure series, and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Criminal #2-3 (Image).

Brubillips gives us a two-part story that only very tangentially ties into the first issue of the new series, but it seems like that’s the way they’re going to roll with this: everything is sort of loosely connected, but the stories will come seemingly randomly. That doesn’t bug me, but I’m just warning you – if you bought the first issue of Criminal and expected the next two issues to continue that story, you’re going to be disappointed.

However … Brubaker and Phillips are so good that it doesn’t really matter what kind of structure to the series they’re doing, because you can be pretty sure each issue is going to be a winner. This two-parter tells the story of a dude who once worked as an art assistant for a famous comic book artist, and late in the dude’s life, he’s asked to accompany him around a convention to make sure he doesn’t get in any trouble. It turns out the artist asked for him specifically, the reason for which we find out at the end of issue #2. The book is called Criminal, so maybe you can figure it out. It’s a cool little story with a few good twists in it, but the real reason it’s a lot of fun is because of how Brubaker writes the entire comic book part of the story. We get “Hal Crane,” who’s not really based on anyone (according to Brubaker), and we also get a lot of mentions about real-life creators and incidents from comic-book history. Most notably, he references the car accident that killed Alex Raymond, which sent Hal Crane down a rabbit hole from which he never returned. Brubaker doesn’t pull punches when it comes to both the way creators have been treated by the companies that use their art and how complicit some creators were (and are) in that use – in a book like this, it’s not surprising that everyone is a bit morally gray, and when it’s about a topic so many people who will read this book have some knowledge about, it’s interesting to see his take on it. In one scene, Brubaker gets to the heart of why people might put up with all the shit – Hal accepts a lifetime achievement award, and just the knowledge that things he did brought so much joy to so many people warms his heart briefly – just briefly, though. Brubaker knows that despite the poor treatment of creators, many creators love that they have enriched readers’ lives, so the financial issues so many of them struggle with are not as cut-and-dried as we might think. It’s a nice, subtle way to show both sides. Meanwhile, of course, the art is terrific. It’s interesting to consider the effect a colorist has on a penciller. Brubillips worked with Elizabeth Breitweiser for so long that it’s still a bit strange to see his work colored by someone different, but Jacob Phillips uses a brighter palette than Breitweiser does, and while I imagine if Breitweiser were still coloring the book the structure of the story would be the same, the bright colors seems to open up the spaces Phillips creates and make the book exist more in the “real world” rather than a world solely populated by noir characters. The contrast between the bright outside world and the insular world of the criminals (Phillips still colors some of the book in darker tones) gives the series a different and fresher look. Breitweiser is a fine colorist (if you want to know why she’s not working on the book anymore, Google will give you some hints, although I’m not sure if that’s the reason), but it’s always interesting to have a different perspective to an artist’s work, and Phillips provides that to Phillips’s pencils.

Anyway, Criminal is good. I know, shocking.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Family Man (IDW/It’s Alive).

This comic came out in 1995 from Paradox Press, and now we get a nice hardcover collection from IDW and It’s Alive, so that’s nice. Jerome Charyn has written some comics that I liked, so I thought this would be good, and while I’m not the hugest fan of Joe Staton, I don’t hate him either, so there’s that. Charyn gives us New York “one hour into the future,” which means, in the grand tradition of dystopic science fiction, that it’s a shithole run by a totalitarian bunch of officials and cops. Early on, we learn that our hero, Alonzo, used to be a mob enforcer, but the mob has largely been taken out of action (mostly killed off), and the remaining mobsters are pathetic old men hiding in grungy apartments. Alonzo’s brother, Charles, is the antagonist, mainly because he’s opposed to Alonzo – he’s a member of the police force. It’s here the book gets weird, as Charles is the “Monsignor,” literally in many ways – he wears robes and a cross and apparently can do the things a Catholic priest is supposed to do, but he carries a gun and has no hesitation shooting people. I can see why IDW and It’s Alive might want to reprint this – there’s a lot about rounding up “criminals” – many of them are, of course – and putting them in camps – in this case, an unused Yankee Stadium – and that sort of thing is always newsworthy, especially in this country at this time, so it feels contemporary even though it’s a quarter-century old. Totalitarianism never goes out of style, of course! It’s a perfectly fine story, although nothing special, and Charles’s position as “Monsignor” is very bizarre. It feels like a mistake from Charyn, one a European would make. Despite the decline in church attendance in Europe, religion and especially Catholicism (or Anglicism if you’re in England) has always been very connected to the state, and a “Monsignor” taking over the police department doesn’t seem too much of a stretch. Here, where Catholicism never really was too powerful a political force (Catholics have certainly exerted influence in some areas, but never to the extent they did in Europe) and where even in the 1990s evangelical Christians (all Protestant, and mostly Baptist) were a far more powerful political force, having a “Monsignor” as the ultimate power feels a bit strange. It takes us out of the story and reminds us how bizarre this all is. Even today, with Trump trying to blunder his way into a dictatorship, religion is just ancillary to his power grab, because Trump doesn’t care about religious people. So Charyn’s story, while perfectly decent, always feels a bit too odd and dulls the impact of what he’s trying to say.

Meanwhile, Staton does nice work. I feel bad for Staton, actually, because he was born at the wrong time, it seems (1948). Had he been born earlier, he could have been working during the late 1940s and 1950s, when you could (probably – I wasn’t alive and nobody talks about it, so who the hell knows?) make a living drawing things that weren’t superheroes. Had he been born later, he could have worked on the weird non-superhero stuff that began to be popular in this century. But he came of age in the 1970s, when the underground scene died and superheroes became THE THING, and he’s just not a very good superhero artist. He draws those square faces and those bulky bodies, and he’s great at drawing jowls, which don’t really come into play too often in superhero comics. He draws the beaten-up, trashed New York with fierce and terrible beauty, giving us so many details I was reminded of Kirby drawing “Street Code,” which is about the best praise I can give. His people look real, and even the attractive ones don’t look too far beyond the realm of reality. Staton’s art on the book lends gravitas to Charyn’s somewhat simplistic story and even assists Charyn’s oddball sense of humor. It’s very nice work, and it’s again too bad that Staton was stuck drawing Green Lantern stories for so long (his short run on The Huntress is pretty good, though).

This is a nice package, and it’s cool that it’s been reprinted. It’s not the greatest comic, but it’s still cool to check out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nancy Drew: The Palace of Wisdom (Dynamite).

I suspected I would like the Nancy Drew trade because Kelly Thompson wrote it and Jenn St-Onge drew it, and I did. Thompson keeps impressing as a writer, making sure that Nancy is the star but never short-shrifting anyone else in the book, and also keeping every character interesting even though they’re all different. Team books can be difficult to write because the tendency is that everyone starts to sound a bit alike (that’s why Claremont came up with catch-phrases, so he could drop them in to let us know that, yes, Kurt Wagner sure is German, isn’t he?), but Thompson resists that. She doesn’t even make Nancy the greatest person in the world – she doesn’t listen to good counsel all the time and it takes her a long time to admit that, yes, she does love her friends (so often in fiction, the characters don’t seem to like each other all that much even though they say they do – Nancy does seem to like her friends, but she also seems to take them for granted). Thompson’s depiction of the ignorant cop is a bit too much (I mean, I get that the police might not take a teenager seriously, but this dude really leans into it), but for such a large cast, she does a nice job making sure everyone has a voice. The case is pretty good, too, as Nancy returns to her home town because she received a mysterious letter about the death of her mom. She gets involved in a mystery, of course, and while it’s not the greatest mystery in the world, Thompson does a nice job showing how a bunch of kids might be able to figure stuff out. St-Onge, meanwhile, does a fine job with the art. Her facial expressions are great, and she does a good job fitting everyone in (it’s a packed book). The way the characters react to each other makes Thompson’s crackling script work even better, and her character designs are terrific. There’s not a ton of action in the book, but she does a good job with it. Colorist Triona Farrell doesn’t get to show off too much, but the scenes at the rave late in the book are colored really beautifully, highlighting the tension of the scenes but still reflecting what a rave would look like, with all the various lights.

I don’t completely love the book because it ends … on a cliffhanger! What the crud, man? I haven’t heard anything about a sequel, and Thompson is probably super-busy with other stuff these days (I know, I could ask her, but I don’t feel like it), so who knows if there will ever be one. I certainly hope so, but why would you end on a cliffhanger if you weren’t ready to leap into the next story? It’s weird. And the case Nancy is working on doesn’t really get resolved, which is strange. And one more thing – Nancy decides to stay in her home town instead of going back to the town she moved to (and where she lives at the beginning of the series). Um, what? It’s implied she’s not 18 yet (she’s still in high school, for one), but we never actually see her father. Does she live on her own? What’s up with that? And what about her friends at the beginning, whom she seems pretty close to? Is she just going to abandon them? Anyway, it’s strange. Maybe it will get resolved in the sequel!

For the most part, however, this is a fine mystery. It’s just another reason why Thompson is such a good writer!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Uncanny X-Men: X-Men Disassembled (Marvel).

I love the X-Men, and some of my favorite characters in all of comics are X-Men, so I’m always kind of interested in seeing what’s going on with them, even though I don’t really keep up with them anymore (Chuck Austen drove me away, but the insane proliferation of titles kept me away). Marvel reboots the “Uncanny” part of the title, which has been fallow for a while, and we get a 10-issue story written by Kelly Thompson, Ed Brisson, and Matthew Rosenberg and drawn by Mahmud Asrar, R.B. Silva, Yildiray Cinar, and Pere Pérez, and that’s a lot of talent. So that’s good, right?

Unfortunately, this comic is an absolute mess. It’s like many modern Marvel and DC comics, in that’s it’s relentless. It’s 10 issues of large groups of mutants fighting each other, destroying lots of property, blowing shit up, and making an incoherent scramble of everything. It’s not a complicated story – Nate Summers (X-Man) wants to destroy the world, and the X-Men are trying to stop him – but it’s just too much. There are tiny bits of non-fighting in the book, but they’re few and far between and aren’t very good anyway, and the fighting just goes on and on, for very dumb reasons. The writers lampshade the fighting quite often, as the “X-Kids” – people like Armor and Pixie – constantly talk about how the “adults” are all just fighting all the time, and of course (because this is a big dumb superhero comic), those on the side of fighting turn out to be right. Legion shows up, and the fact that no one has been able to write Legion very well since Claremont and nobody has really been able to draw Legion since Sienkiewicz is front and center, and he’s just stupid and evil. His look is even more ridiculous, as non-evil Legion shows up early on in the book and his hair is long and draped down over his shoulders. Once he becomes “evil Legion” again, he manages to get ahold of some seriously good hair product and his hair is standing straight up again. Look, people – Sienkiewicz could get away with Legion’s hair because he’s Sienkiewicz, and everything is a bit weird in a Sienkiewicz comic. Later artists drawing the hair the same way makes him look utterly stupid. Meanwhile, X-Man is just a B-movie villain, spouting idiotic bon mots about how the world sucks, and the X-Men are pretty much interchangeable, as they simply attack X-Man whenever he shows up. And of course there’s a mutant “vaccine” floating around, because why not? And of course Angel becomes Archangel, because hey, Claremont was cool, wasn’t he? And at one point “every” X-Man shows up, and hey, look, there’s FUCKING MAGGOTT! Are you kidding me? I mean, I could go into far more detail, but that’s no fun. This is just the epitome of why I don’t love superhero comics anymore. It’s like a comic book having a seizure, and who wants to read that?

Now I’m sad. I love the X-Men (and one of my favorites, Betsy Braddock, is actually the coolest character in this book, so that’s okay), but I haven’t read them in years because of stuff like this. Oh well.

(What really bugs me about this is that it feels editorially-mandated. I mean, I haven’t read too much of Rosenberg’s stuff, but he seems better than this. Brisson is excellent at gritty, noir-type stuff, which is not in this comic, and Thompson’s dialogue is amazing, and most of this is not. There are hints of what these writers can do, but it seems like there was a Marvel editor standing behind them the entire time yelling at them to put in more explosions. Sheesh.)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Detective Comics #1000 (DC).

‘Tec reaches 1000 issues (although, given DC’s fear about releasing the pre-Batman issues in a collection, maybe they should recalibrate their numbering system), and it’s … fine. DC can get any artist they want, so the stories look very nice. There’s a Greg Capullo story, there’s a Jim Lee story, there’s a Dustin Nguyen story, Becky Cloonan draws one, Steve Epting draws one, some rando named Neal Adams draws a story, Alex Maleev shows up, Kelley Jones gets into the act, and then we get Alvaro Martinez-Bueno on a story and then Tony Daniel with Joëlle Jones (I’m not sure if she’s inking him; it looks like Daniel’s pencil art throughout) before we get Doug Mahnke drawing a brief prologue to the next arc of the series.

The stories are fine, although generally they’re not as good as the art. Scott Snyder’s story is about Batman obsessing over a random clue in a long-solved mystery that leads him to the only really interesting moment in the entire comic, a meeting with the so-called “Guild of Detection.” Slam Bradley, Ralph and Sue Dibny, Detective Chimp, the Question, Martian Manhunter, and the Hawks (-man and -girl, or has she been upgraded to -woman?) welcome Bats into the club. The story makes no sense if you think about it too hard (how did they all enter the club before the “World’s Greatest Detective”?) but it’s nice because it show that the comic has always (although obviously not as much for the past 50 years or so) been about “detectives,” not just Batman. It would have been nice if DC had made this an anniversary issue with some other Gotham detectives – a solo Jason Bard story (or maybe a team-up with Barbara?), maybe a Harvey Bullock or Josie MacDonald story, or even just a Martian Manhunter solo story! Alas, this is as close as we get. Kevin Smith’s story is about Batman tracking down the gun that killed his parents, a story that has been told before, and it’s always different, which makes me wonder if Tom and Martha were caught in the crossfire of some gang war that they themselves initiated, given that so many guns seemed to have killed them. Paul Dini’s story about a bad henchman is obvious but funny, while Warren Ellis’s story about how awesome Batman is doesn’t really tell us anything except that Batman is awesome (I mean, duh). Denny O’Neil’s story makes no sense in the context of who Leslie Thompkins became, but it’s a nice little shout-out to her first appearance. Christopher Priests’s Ra’s al Ghul is all over the place, but it’s Neal Adams drawing it, so who cares? Bendis’s story about an old Penguin confronting an old Bruce Wayne is fine, but you should never poke too much at why more people haven’t figured out Batman’s secret identity, because it never makes sense. Geoff Johns manages to write a story in which no one gets decapitated, and it’s both the most heart-warming and poignant of the book. Jame Tynion IV writes a story about why it’s okay for Batman to allow a young teen to get shot at, and then Tom King writes a story about Batman’s “family” that features the funniest panel in the issue. Finally, Peter Tomasi begins a story that seems awfully familiar – some aggro dude doesn’t think Batman is tough enough! I’m sure that will work out well.

This comic is fine. It’s not the greatest anniversary issue, because, as I mentioned, it features Batman far too much. I liked Detective #627, with its four different versions of the Batman origin, Detective #572, with Bradley and Dibny having a bigger role (and it basically being one story and also Sherlock Motherfucking Holmes guest-stars), Batman #400, with its single story, and even Detective #600, which was a big event because of the movie and got to the heart of Batman’s loneliness far better (despite it not being the greatest story), more than this, but this isn’t bad. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t feel like such a big deal – each story is fine, but they’re just stories about Batman. I guess it’s hard after 80 years to come up with something interesting about the old Caped Crusader, especially in a short story, but that’s why you have other detectives you could use or even, as Dini does, make it a bit of a comedy. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this issue, but there’s nothing terribly noteworthy about it either. It’s just kind of there.

(I decided to get the Michael Cho 1950s cover because it was fun. The only other one I was really considering was the Steve Rude 1930s cover, although the Bruce Timm 1940s cover was okay. After that they get increasingly into generic poses of Batman, and while they were nice – Steranko actually drew one! – they weren’t anything special. But that Cho cover is fun, isn’t it?)

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Die! Die! Die! #1-8 (Image).

You don’t usually think of “fun” comics when you think of Robert Kirkman – he’s most known for the most ponderous zombie comic in history, of course, but even his “fun” superhero comic, Invincible, wasn’t really all that fun, what with all the blood and death and such. Yet Die! Die! Die!, which also features gallons of blood and several deaths, is ridiculously fun, mainly because Kirkman doesn’t take the blood and death all that seriously and because he leans so far into the insanity that he comes out on the side of “fun.” That it’s drawn in meticulous detail by Chris Burnham makes it even more fun, because there has never been a wound that Burnham hasn’t drawn with monkish devotion, and there are a crap-ton of wounds in this comic.

Die! Die! Die! is perhaps “famous” (if it’s famous at all) for the way Kirkman and Skybound released it, that is to say with no advance notice whatsoever. It just appeared in stores back in July and for every month through February, when issue #8 dropped. It was a clever way to get publicity, but it soon became annoying, as my retailer never got it on time (to be fair, it was because he ignored emails, but the ordering process for the book was pretty fucked, too). So I didn’t get issue #8 until late in March, but I guess it’s better than not getting it at all. Image is going to release it “traditionally” from now on, which means it will show up in Previews (I use quotes because the way Kirkman did it originally is more traditional, but since the advent of Previews, the pre-order way has become the “traditional” method), probably because doing it the way they were doing it was more trouble than it was worth. And there’s going to be a trade in the near future, so if you missed this title because of Skybound’s shenanigans, you can get it all in one volume!

Is it worth it, though? Well, I don’t want to give too much away, but yes, it’s a very good comic. Basically it’s about assassins being used by our government, but it seems that different officials in the government run different teams, and they can come into conflict with each other. Senator Connie Lipshitz is in charge of one, and she uses them to right wrongs, but Senator Barnaby Smith is using them for more nefarious means. Meanwhile, there’s a set of brothers (quadruplets?), three of whom are assassins and one of whom hates the other two, there’s an alien (oh yes!), there are assassins who love each other, there are orgies, there’s cat punting, there’s potential nuclear annihilation, there’s Jason Statham (not really, but a minor character is clearly modeled on the Stath), and there’s so much violence. Kirkman structures the issues so that they don’t make perfect sense until you read the entire arc, but when you read all eight issues in one sitting, it’s not that complicated. It’s just really fun, really bloody, and beautifully drawn. So I’m looking forward to more, and man, I hope that Kirkman has an endgame instead of just letting the book run for years with no exit strategy, like a certain ponderous zombie comic I could mention!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Archie Meets Batman ’66 (Archie Comics/DC).

Gotham’s villains finally figure out that they might have more success doing villainy someplace where there’s no Batman, so they pull up stakes and head to Riverdale, where they mind control all the adults but can’t quite get to the teenagers, which, when you’re in Riverdale, means that the teenagers are going to cause trouble for you. Jeff Parker and Michael Moreci don’t try to muddy the waters with their story – it’s very straight-forward, but it’s also very fun, and not for the first time, I wonder why DC can’t publish a “real” Batman comic that resembles the Batman ’66 ones. Batman is a perfectly good character in these stories – he figures out clues, he bops villains, he doesn’t brood – and he’s a hero people might actually enjoy having around, unlike the “real” Batman, who’s good at his job but you know everyone from Dick Grayson to Commissioner Gordon to Superman wishes would just get laid or take some damned laxatives. Anyway, this is a fun story, as the villains discover that Archie and the gang are a lot more resourceful (meaning: annoying, at least to adults) than they thought, and new transfer students Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon are pretty resourceful as well. Parker has been writing this character for a long time, so he’s good at it, and he and Moreci do a good job showing how the kids might be able to figure out what the bad guys are up to (I mean, it’s not difficult, but it’s still humorous how Jughead’s love of hamburgers is a major plot point). Dan Parent’s art is charming as always, and this is just another entertaining entry into the Batman ’66 Universe. We can dream that it’s the “real” Batman, can’t we?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Charlie’s Angels: The Devil You Know (Dynamite).

There is nothing essential at all about John Layman and Joe Eisma’s five-issue mini-series about Charlie’s Angels. That doesn’t mean it’s not a blast, as Layman has a grand time with the 1970s setting, the presence of Jimmy Carter, the dark mirror version of the Angels, how the Angels take advantage of the sexism of the Seventies and how men tend to ignore women whenever women aren’t fawning over the men. There’s some mild fourth-wall breaking, as Layman has fun with some comic book tropes, and Eisma is a nice, solid artist. He’s not great, but he gets the breezy style of the script well, and while his exterior scenes are never that great, he draws the characters with a lot of verve and energy. The Angels don’t exactly look like the actors who played them, but that’s fine, as they’re close enough to “on-brand.” There’s just not a lot to say about this comic. It’s very fun but kind of forgettable. It’s a pleasant way to spend some time, but it won’t change your life. So if you’re interested in fun adventures, it might be for you!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mirror Mirror (HarperCollins).

The obvious problem of reading books in alphabetical order by author is that you come upon several by the same author, which I have done with Gregory Maguire. I like Maguire, so it’s not a big deal, but if I were smarter, I would skip around a bit and break up the Maguire-thon I’m currently engaged in. I have one more book after this one, and then I’m on to the next author!

This is a retelling of the Snow White story, and Maguire does something more clever with it than he usually does, which is to turn the evil “stepmother” into an actual person, in this case Lucrezia Borgia. She doesn’t marry Snow White’s (Bianca de Nevada in this story) father, but she does act as the girl’s guardian for some time while Bianca’s father is off on a quest that Lucrezia’s brother, Cesare, ordered him to go on. He’s looking for … apples, of course! More specifically, the apples from the Tree of Knowledge in Genesis, which exist in this universe. Maguire turns the book into an interesting political and religious treatise, an examination of the limits of female power during the Renaissance (and, by implication, throughout history), and the ways obsession can destroy people. Lucrezia is the most interesting character in the book, because she’s definitely evil but she’s also trapped by society, so it’s interesting seeing how she uses what power she can wield. Bianca is also fairly interesting, as she’s a young girl when her father leaves and an old teenager when he returns, and during that time she has to learn what Lucrezia knows, and that’s how to be a woman in a world that doesn’t treat women well. Because this is Maguire and not Philip José Farmer (or Wallace Wood), the dwarves do not violate Snow White – they aren’t even exactly human, and Maguire does some interesting work showing how their interaction with the world slowly turns them more into humans. It’s a good book, not quite as good as his Oz books but still worth a read, as Maguire brings Renaissance Italy to life pretty well, despite being bound by historical events (Cesare Borgia, for instance, isn’t a terribly good villain, as he dies in 1507, just when things are starting to get interesting). But it’s a neat way to bring the themes of many fairy tales – the inevitable decay of the world, obsession, sex, and religion – into a more structured narrative, so the characters aren’t just archetypes. It’s a solid novel.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Cloak and Dagger volume 2: Negative Exposure (Marvel).

This is the second digital-first Cloak and Dagger arc, and I doubt if I’ll buy another one. It’s not that they’ve been bad, they just haven’t been great, and I can live without mediocre comics. Dennis Hopeless, who wrote this, seems to think that splitting Ty and Tandy up and giving them other significant others even though we know they’ll be back together soon enough is somehow dramatic, but it’s not. In fact, I would argue that keeping Ty and Tandy with their respective significant others is far more interesting, and it’s not like they have to be together – I always get annoyed when televisions shows have a male and female lead and throw them into random relationships with guest stars, because if they’re not in the regular cast, they’re not going to be around long, but Marvel and Hopeless don’t have to pay actors to be in relationships with their main characters, because (spoiler alert!) they’re only drawings. So while Ty’s girlfriend is really annoying (she’s a “live-life-to-the-fullest” kind of gal, which is fine, but I hate characters who never face any consequences to their actions and don’t seem to have any source of income), she’s not bad as a foil for both Ty and Tandy, and Tandy’s cop boyfriend could lead to many interesting situations, but Hopeless has no interest in exploring that, as they both seem to exist solely to make Tandy and Ty realize they should be together. Yawn.

Mr. Negative is the villain in this story, but he’s working with a mysterious ally who turns out (shocking!) to not really be an ally at all, and Mr. Negative is a pretty cool villain, so the superhero part of the story is perfectly fine. The biggest problem with it is that, like with Ty’s girlfriend, the characters do things that are monumentally stupid, which leads to dangerous situations that could have easily been avoided. I get that superheroes often run into trouble without assessing anything, but when Tandy and her boyfriend talk about how stupid what they’re doing before they do it, it becomes harder to take. I mean, I’m not asking for total realism, but non-stupidity would be nice. But there are some good fights and some high stakes, so that part is fine. It’s just that Hopeless doesn’t really write the characters all that well, so it becomes harder to care about what they’re doing.

The art is pretty good, though. Francesco Manna and Ruairi Coleman handle the pencils, and while they’re not quite as good as David Messina, who drew most of the first arc, they’re pretty good. There’s not really too much to say about the art – it gets the job done. And as ridiculous as Dagger’s costume was back in the day, I kind of miss it. She’s much more sensible now!

So it’s just a decent superhero comic. Nothing really to recommend it beyond that, so unless you’re a huge Cloak and Dagger fan (and I dig them, but not too much), there’s not much reason to get this.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Coda volume 1 (Boom!).

I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy (see above), but I do like Simon Spurrier, so I picked up Coda, which takes place in a fantasy world after a great disaster that seemed to leach all magic out of the world. An unnamed bard wanders around, looking for a way to rescue his wife from a demon, but Spurrier doesn’t waste a lot of time to let us know that it’s not all it seems. I like fantasy stories with a more modern sensibility, and Spurrier gives us that, as the bard looks askance at the armor-clad knights who defend the city he arrives at and who talk in an archaic patois. The bard also can get out of situations without simply starting a fight, which of course the knights pine for, so there’s a nice disconnect there. Spurrier doesn’t completely go with the light-hearted route – the bard’s wife is still in peril, and the source of the city’s magic is horrifying. But it’s also not a complete downer, which makes it work well, as that’s the way life is. So the bard can be both a bit goofy and deadly serious, and Jenny can care about her father, a demented wizard, but also be a terrifying enemy in battle. This trade collects only four issues (as is the way with most Boom! trades), so the main plot is only kicking in at the end of it, but Spurrier is a good enough writer that he brings in interesting characters and throws a battle at us to set up the main plot. Which is nice of him.

I wasn’t sure, after the first few pages, if I would like Matías Bergara’s artwork, but once I got used to the cartooniness of the work, it was really nice. Bergara’s details are wonderful, and his cartoonish style allows him to bend his characters very well, offering the reader many unusual panels with interesting points of view, which makes us focus on more of the things in the panels. There’s a lot of violence in the book, and Bergara handles it well, never getting too gory but still showing the fast pace and sudden changes in fortune that are part of any battle, and when he does a flashback sequence at the beginning of issue #4, he shifts to a more basic style, using blocks of colors and heavier pencils to show the dire circumstances that formed the world. Bergara and Michael Doig handle the colors, and they’re terrific – lots of bright primaries, with the magical elements getting an eerie hue to show their otherworldness. He also uses what looks like gouache (but is more than likely digital effects) very well in places – I’m a big fan of gouache, so even if it’s digital, it looks groovy. The world looks just alien enough to make us believe in what Spurrier is selling, but it’s also familiar enough to make the more mundane aspects of the story resonate. It’s pretty keen.

Boom! tends to make sure these series don’t last too long, so I imagine this is probably going to be 8-12 issues. I’ll have to get the next trade(s)!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The Mask Omnibus volume 1 (Dark Horse).

A couple of things struck me about the first three mini-series starring The Mask, which are collected here. First, Doug Mahnke’s art is pretty rough in the first series (from 1991), but there’s still a ton of potential there, and he gets much better by the second mini-series and most assuredly by the third, when he’s basically recognizable as “Doug Mahnke.” Second, the first and second mini-series are really bloody and violent, but the third is very toned down, and I imagine the success of the movie had to do with that (Arcudi makes some vague references to the movie, so I imagine he wrote it after it came out or at least while it was being made). There’s still a lot of violence in the third series, but it’s much more cartoonish and there’s very little blood. In the first series, the Mask is a horror character, and even in the second, he’s still pretty bad. I’m skirting around a third thing because it’s a big spoiler, but I was quite surprised by what happened in the first series, and not even too far into the series.

But anyway, these are 25+-year-old comics, and they’re really fun to read. Arcudi has a blast with the Mask and the mayhem he perpetuates, and Mahnke has a blast with the ultra-violence early and then the more cartoonish violence later. This is definitely a comic to check out if you’ve never done it before.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ms. Marvel volume 10: Time and Again (Marvel).

G. Willow Wilson’s reign of terror over the snowflakes of the comics world comes to an end, as she gives up writing Ms. Marvel and passes it onto a middle-aged white guy, like it should be. [Check notes] Wait, the new writer isn’t a middle-aged white guy? WE MARCH ON MARVEL!!!!!

I never understood idiot racists who claim that they just want their white guy heroes back and don’t have a problem with more diverse characters as long as everyone knows who’s on top. I mean, 25 years ago the Avengers was a joke series, and prior to Claremont, the X-Men were nothing. Things changes, man! If you want Peter Parker to be like he was when you grew up, maybe you should try Ms. Marvel, which is the best series about a teenager in the Marvel Universe since the early Spider-Man issues. It’s not as good as those are, but those were drawn by Steve Ditko, so maybe we shouldn’t try to compare. Kamala Khan’s teen journey has been fascinating, and it had to sell well, because why would Marvel lose money for so long on it just to promote diversity and America-hating Muslims? It doesn’t make much sense.

Anyway, I don’t have much to say about this trade. Kamala fights the Shocker, whom I’ve always liked, but the arc is more about her and Bruno figuring out her powers (which, um, doesn’t make much sense, but it’s COMICS!!!!!) and figuring out they lurve each other, which is kind of annoying. Not that they love each other, but that writers always seem to think that you’re destined to love someone, when you’re, you know, not. I hope they don’t stay together, not because I’m a jerk, but because that’s what happens to people! Anyway, there’s also a story about Kamala having a sleepover and finally telling her friends who she is (and, of course, they already know) and a story about Jersey City flooding in seconds (it seems that fast, anyway) and a story about Kamala and some friends trapped in a video game. Basically, it’s a trade in which Wilson wraps up some loose ends. Good for her!

It’s not the best Ms. Marvel trade, but it’s pretty good. It doesn’t tear down the status quo, but it does let new writer Saladin Ahmed jump off with a relatively clean slate. I’m not sure if I’m going to keep reading, though. I know Kamala is going to space, and in the Marvel Universe, sending a character to space who doesn’t necessarily belong in space is one of the worst ideas any writer can have (see Men, X-), so I’m not sure. But Wilson’s series has been fun, even though I always want to make war on America when I’m done reading!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I buy a lot of comics, as you can see, but I don’t even read everything I buy! So here are some comics I bought in March that I didn’t get a chance to read:

I own all the B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth volumes, but those things are big, and for some reason I missed one and had to re-order it, so I’m behind. I’ll get to it eventually! As I noted a few months ago, I tend to wait until a manga series is done, so I skipped Children of the Whales. I liked the first volume of Kill 6 Billion Demons, but it’s pretty dense and takes a while to read, so I decided to wait until it’s finished. I just didn’t feel like reading the two volumes of Polar because I want to read all five together. Rosalynd is a companion piece to the vampire heist comic Silver, and I haven’t finished that, so I skipped it. The Conan book is huge, so I’ll get to it. It looks amazing. I did finish the Conan book with the comics collected, and that was great. This is the magazine stuff, and it also looks great. Finally, I figure Sunstone will have a few volumes to complete this new arc, so I’ll wait. No hurry!

Here’s the money I spent in March!

6.3.19.: $215.05
13.3.19.: $177.85
20.3.19.: $320.15
27.3.19.: $134.39

Total for the month: $847.44
YTD: $2293.22

One of these days I’ll post this on the last day of the month I’m writing about, which is always my goal. It’s a nice goal, isn’t it? Until then, I hope you find something in here you like, and pour one out for Jan-Mike Vince!

15 Comments

  1. tomfitz1

    Is the artist of Mata Hari, Kristantina, the same one on InSeXts? (I can’t remember)

    I’ve read and enjoyed The Prisioner: Shattered Visage back when it first came out. Still haven’t seen the 2006 mini-series, yet.

    Currently reading Criminal, boy, does those two guys ever stop working together? (I hope not – some collaborators work well and some don’t. These two hasn’t bombed yet)

    Die!Die!Die!: I just died loving reading this series! You can just tell how much fun the creative people are having doing this book. Hope this series never dies! 😉

    Cloak & Dagger: For some reason, the only series that I vaguely remember is the Bill Mantlo mini series many years ago. The TV series is really good (along with the Runaways).

    Speaking of tv series, have you been checking out The Doom Patrol? It’s awesome! Just love those Morrison easter eggs (I swear I thought I saw a cameo appearance of the “god-of-all-comics” in one of the episodes, but I could’ve be wrong). It gets better with every episode (or should that be weirder?).

    If the DC Streaming Universe keeps up with this type of tv quality, the Arrowverse could retire and rest easily.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: Yes, Kristantina drew Insexts. It was good art there, too!

      The 2006 Prisoner mini-series was … weird. I don’t remember it too well, but I know among original series lovers it doesn’t have the best reputation. It looked cool, though, but it was … just weird.

      I missed the first season of Cloak and Dagger and never caught up. Maybe some day …

      No, I haven’t seen Doom Patrol, even though almost everyone I know says it’s good. I have too much to watch already! I also don’t want to pay for the DC streaming service, especially if it’s just to check that out. Again, maybe some day …!

  2. Edo Bosnar

    “(…) honestly, The Lord of the Rings has pretty much ruined fantasy books for me, as they’re all riffs on that (…)”
    I never understand when people say that. Have you never read, say, Le Guin’s Earthsea books?

    Also, Staton’s “not a very good superhero artist” (?!). That’s so wrong I don’t even know what to do with it…

    1. Greg Burgas

      Edo: No, I haven’t read the LeGuin books. I KNOW there’s a ton of fantasy out there, and I’ll try reading some every once in a while, but I guess I’m unlucky, because it all seems like a LotR riff to me. But I know I’ve read a drop in the bucket compared to what’s out there. There just aren’t enough hours in the day!

      No, Staton isn’t a very good superhero artist. YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE!!!!! 🙂

      1. Edo Bosnar

        Trust me, Le Guin’s work in particular is never a riff on anybody else’s work, and the Earthsea cycle is well worth the read (I’ve said it before elsewhere, but it’s superior to LOTR).

        Re: “No, Staton isn’t a very good superhero artist. YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE!!!!!”
        Hmm, yeah. Like I said, don’t know what to say. I’m beginning to think you’re hopeless…

        1. Greg Burgas

          Edo: I guess we’ll just have to … disagree! I know, shocking. I don’t hate Staton’s art, and I do think he did a decent job on E-Man, but that was before he became “Joe Staton,” when his style became recognizable. I just don’t think his body types (he tends to draw men rather square) and his action scenes work too well with superhero comics. Which isn’t a bad thing or a good thing – some people whom I don’t consider great artists are particularly suited to superheroes – it’s just a thing. But you can disagree! That’s why we all have brains and opinions! 🙂

  3. Ecron Muss

    The Motter and Askwith Prisoner was pretty dull, and I’m surprised there’s enough demand for a reissue/trade.

    Maybe it was their meta way of revisiting the furore that arose when the last episode screened in the UK and the mass-market couldn’t make hide nor hair of it.

    If that was their intent, they failed, at least for me; I wasn’t angry at the incomprehensibility, just annoyed at how undeveloped it seemed. I thought it a wasted opportunity.

    My brother hijacked my copies and rewrote the dialogue, to hilarious effect. No idea where those are now.

  4. Jeff Nettleton

    Please say there was intended sarcasm about that Prisoner remake mini. That thing was a pile of New Age horse manure. I wrote a review on IMDB that summed it up as…..beige. It’s just bland, from the endless beige sand to the bland clothes and bland acting (except McKellen). Just boring; and, the original broadcast had these stupid teasers, at commercial breaks, about secret info to better understand things and they were nothing. Granted, that would be a Village trick; but, it made me turn off the damn show. not a smart move when you are trying to sell a remake.

    The original had style and power to it. It was one part spy genre (ala Le Carre and Len Deighton), one part Lewis Carroll and one part Kafka. Nothing was exactly what it seemed, yet everything made sense, from certain angles. It explored thigs like hollow elections, rote learning vs true knowledge, conformity vs free expression, arrogance of leadership, the refusal to kill when government demands it, sense of identity, and just why did Number 6 resign?

    Shattered Visage presumes the reader is familiar with the series; and, be honest, that is who they were aiming for (much like the Thomas Disch novel, which was a sorta sequel to the original series). The man that Alice (notice the choice of name) meets is the original Number 6, as payed by Patrick McGoohan. Later, Number 2 (as played by Leo McKern) arrives, along with The Butler (played by Angelo Muscat). The reason for Alice being there is pretty clear in the finale, which ties into the finale of the original series (which I won’t spoil; but, think along the lines of the alleged reason for invading Iraq, by the Bush Administration). The Mrs Butterworth, referred to and briefly seen, early on, was a character met by Number 6 in the tv series, in one of the best episodes.

    The original tv series was a feast for the brain, both in thought and in the visuals. The remake was like an Eckhart Tolle book: a bunch of hollow nonsense, mostly swiped from better sources. Skip it and watch the 17 episodes of the original. Then, read Shattered Visage (and Disch’s novel).

    Also, Mark Askwith seems forgotten here, as he contributed heavily to the writing of this.

    Of course, we also have the Lost Prisoner Adaptation; the series that Kirby did preliminary art on, for Marvel (after Gil Kane got it started). It was the 70s, so time had past; but, Kirby had dabbled a bit in it’s themes in his DC work. That could have really been something.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Jeff: Yeah, I didn’t really like the new Prisoner, although without the benefit of having seen the first one, I didn’t think it was an abomination. You’re right about the blandness of it – it seemed like it was going for the look of coolness more than anything, and there was no substance. I just like poking the bear, because I know how much some people hate it! 🙂

      Hey, I mentioned both Alice’s name and Askwith!

      I’d like to watch the original, but as usual, time is always against me. 🙁

  5. Louis Bright-Raven

    RE: Catwoman — “(Balent’s) women – especially Selina – are far too buxom and tiny-waisted…”

    Yes, Balent definitely needs to learn how to draw more than one female body type. However, his Selina was sort of realistically based, given that he based it off Julie Strain – who was reportedly at the time 6’1″ 122 lbs. and had 38-23-28 measurements before she got enhanced. Just saying.

    *************

    Bought THE WEATHERMAN and SHE COULD FLY in singles, but haven’t gotten around to reading them yet. Unfortunately, this is a recurring theme in my comics collecting these days.

  6. John King

    on the fantasy side I have read some blatant Tolkien imitations (Sword of Shanara and a 2-book story hevily influenced by the Moria segment).
    Nowadays, much fantasy draws directly or indirectly from Dungeons and Dragons which grabbed anything it could from any myth or fantasy story the creators could find – and there is a lot of Tolkien influence there (though less following the legal action).

    If you look you can find a lot of different fantasy out there
    Robert E Howard was more in the pulp area
    Thomas Burnett Swann was more directly referencing mythology
    and there is also Patricia McKillip for some wonderfully magical tales

  7. There are also really good Tolkien riffs. Alan Garner’s Weirdstone of Brisingamen sets LOTR in the Cotswolds (IIRC) and merges it with British folklore. Garner’s later Elidor has Sauron’s victorious forces creeping into our world — this was my first contemporary-set fantasy so it made a huge impression on me.

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