Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – January 2019

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

“What we love in our books are the depths of many marvelous moments seen all at once.” (Kurt Vonnegut, from Slaughterhouse-5)

Every year, I try to keep up with comics reading, and every year, I fall behind. It’s the new year, so let’s see how far I can get. Let’s go!

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Carson of Venus: Pirates of Venus #1-2 (American Mythology Productions).

American Mythology is launching a whole line of comics based on Edgar Rice Burroughs creations, so they decided to start with a reprint of Carson of Venus, which appeared as back-up stories in DC’s Korak, Son of Tarzan #46-53 in 1972-73. The big draw, of course, is that the stories were drawn by Michael Kaluta, very early in his career. Len Wein wrote some of them, with Kaluta finishing up, and they’re very fun even though the story never really resolves. It’s basically just a “lost world” adventure story, with Carson trying to get to Mars, overshooting and ending up on Venus, where he finds lush jungles and humans, who learn English extremely quickly, which is nice for Carson. He fights weird creatures, gets involved in a war, and turns pirate, all fairly quickly, and of course the view of women is juuuuuust a bit reductive, as Carson sees a woman in an apartment near his and falls in love with her immediately, and then later finds out she’s a princess, which is handy. She wants nothing to do with him, of course, but I imagine that changes because he’s so very, very manly. Kaluta is as great as ever, with many things evident that would come to characterize his art, mainly in his figure and facial work. He gets to draw weird creatures and beautiful architecture and massive trees and weapons of war, so I imagine it was quite fun for him (he was in his mid-20s when he drew this and hadn’t been working too long in comics). It’s nothing special, but it’s still a fun read.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

They wear loin cloths and build in trees, but they are advanced enough to build battleships?

Conan the Barbarian #1 (Marvel).

Marvel is excited to get the Conan license back, so they put Jason Aaron on the book, which is probably a good choice. Aaron is a decent enough writer, but he doesn’t seem like a really good fit on superhero books, but Marvel doesn’t have anything big enough for him that’s not superheroes, except now they have Conan! They put Mahmud Asrar on the book, too, which is another good choice (although, as usual with Marvel, their crazy scheduling means that Asrar is only drawing the first three issues, although I suppose he might be back later), as Asrar is a terrific action artist, and he gets to cut loose quite a bit in this sucker. It’s a typical Conan story, in that Conan is fighting at the beginning, then he jumps into bed with a hottie, and Conan should know by now that it’s a 50/50 proposition that the woman is going to try to kill him, and she does after turning into an old witch. She wants his blood to release Cthulhu from deep within the earth (no, it’s not Cthulhu, but all these weird monsters sleeping under the earth are the same, aren’t they?), but Conan thwarts her plan. You’d think that would be the end of it, but Aaron has a whole thing going on, as we go to Conan as an older dude, already the king of Aquilonia, where he ties things back to the first part of the story pretty well. Aaron certainly isn’t re-inventing the wheel here, and that’s perfectly fine – you read Conan comics to see Conan kick some ass and hang out with scantily-clad women, and that’s what you get here. Conan comics are much more a showcase for art, as Asrar is excellent here, with wonderfully choreographed and detailed action, a terrifying witch, and a fine handle on the blood and guts. This book is labeled “parental advisory,” and Asrar has a lot of fun showing beheadings and deep wounds, while Matthew Wilson (an excellent colorist), drenches everything in earth tones, like a good Conan book should be. I do find it laughable that the “parental advisory” means we can see bloodier violence than we usually get in a Marvel book but no boobs. BOOBS CORRUPT IMPRESSIONABLE ‘MURICAN LADS!!!!!! Still, it’s a fun issue, slightly longer than usual (30 pages of story) with the first part of a 12-part story in the back (which I didn’t read), so it’s not a bad bargain.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I love Conan’s ‘fuck, not again with this shit’ attitude

Batman/The Shadow: The Murder Geniuses (DC/Dynamite).

I’ve been a fan of Riley Rossmo’s for years – I bought his first interior work in 2006 from Larry Young’s publishing concern – and while I don’t buy everything he draws (because he draws a lot of DC stuff that I’m not interested in), I thought I’d give this a try. This might be the best work he’s ever done, and it makes the book almost worth a look. His Shadow, especially, is terrifying, as the cape swirls everywhere, becoming almost like a tentacled monster, but Rossmo’s Batman is also very good (he’s in the “almost no ears” school), his Joker is lithe and sensual, and his Stag is creepy. He gets a lot of information onto the page, and when we get to Shamba-La (which you knew we had to get to!), he turns the book into a weird, dream-like comic, destroying panel borders and taking Batman on a bit of an acid trip. He also gets to draw a lot of Batman bad guys, which is always fun for artists, I imagine.

Scott Snyder’s and Steve Orlando’s story, and Orlando’s script, however, aren’t very good. The plot is a standard plot – the bad guy wants to destroy something pretty – but it gets dressed up in a lot of dull stuff about the Shadow and Batman being connected. The retcons are dumb, as the Shadow reveals he’s been Batman’s teachers over the years, in different disguises, and that he’s been training Batman to become the Shadow, if only Bats would get over his stupid prohibition to killing. I mean, in the Joker’s case, I agree with the Shadow, but really, the Shadow is a bit crazy anyway, and when you’re crazy compared to Batman, perhaps you should think about your life choices. It’s a dumb story, and unfortunately, Orlando really leans into it, which highlights the dumbness. Orlando isn’t a bad writer, but he’s never quite written something excellent, and part of the problem, it seems, is that he seems like one of these writers for whom “subtlety” is a bad word. He really beats us over the head with the theme of the book, and it’s exhausting. Plus, the Joker’s in it, and the Joker hasn’t been in a good story in, what, 20 years? At least 15. So this just isn’t that good. It’s not terrible, but not that good. Nice art, though.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Yes, the Shadow might be crazier than the Joker

Heavenly Blues (Scout Comics).

Ben Kahn tells a story of five thieves in Hell who are conscripted by an angel to steal something from another angel, after which he will make sure they get to stay in Heaven. Yes, it’s a heist comic in Heaven! Kahn has a lot of fun with it – the main character, Isaiah Jefferson, was a bank robber in the 1930s, and Kahn implies but doesn’t make a bit deal out of the fact that his gang betrayed him because he’s black. His friend Erin was killed during the Salem witch trials because she tried to bribe the head of the community with false coin, so he killed her (“Erin” seems like too modern a name for someone from the 17th century, but I’ll let it pass). They recruit three more thieves – an ancient Egyptian who tried to rob the pharaoh’s tomb, an Old West outlaw, and a 16th-century samurai, all with their own problems but with their particular strengths, too. Hideki is obsessed with looking at the living – his descendants – and cares little about anything else. Coin Counter Turner is casually bisexual, and he begins a romance with Amunet, who seethes with anger because she was enslaved for thousands of years as punishment for her crime. But they’re a good team, and Kahn does nice work making them interesting characters, ones who never sink into mawkishness but still care about each other. It’s a refreshingly straight-forward heist, too – there are some twists along the way, of course, but they’re not out of left field, and it’s nice to get a resolution to the story at the end rather than an oh-so-clever twist. Bruno Hidalgo’s frenetic art works well, too – he has a very angular style, and he does some nice exaggerated poses and angles when he draws fights, bending the characters oddly to create a bigger impact. It’s a violent book, but because everyone is already dead, Hidalgo and Kahn have some fun with the violence, as a severed head berates the characters and Erin gets grumpy when Hideki embeds a shuriken in her face (see below).

Overall, this is a fine heist comic. It’s not world-changing, but it’s an entertaining read. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

She’s not happy about the shuriken

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (Regan Books).

It’s been twenty years since I read this, but I finally got around to the sequels in my reading order, so I figured I’d re-read this before I dove into the subsequent ones. It’s quite a good book, despite having some problems, and I’m kind of curious how they turned it into a musical, as it’s kind of dark. Gregory Maguire writes it mostly from the Witch’s point of view, giving her a name (Elphaba) and a history as a misunderstood and politically active woman who fights for the rights of the talking animals of Oz and is too smart to fit into the repressive regime of the Wizard. It’s fairly clever and entertaining, but Maguire has to fit Elphaba’s death into the book, and the end is where it kind of falls apart. The ending is so weird in the movie (the “death by water” is in the book, too, but it’s not the ending) that it doesn’t make much sense in the more “realistic” context of Maguire’s book – early on, Elphaba has a phobia about water, even before she’s able to speak, but there’s no reason for it, and because she’s the heroine of the book, Maguire has to twist the way we view the events of the movie a bit too much to make her sympathetic. It doesn’t ruin the book, but it does bring it to a strange conclusion. Elphaba is also supposed to be a political agitator, but all of that takes place “off-screen” – the section devoted to that time of her life is told from the point of view of her lover, who doesn’t know much about her activities. The book isn’t necessarily about the politics of Oz, but they help define Elphaba and explain why the Wizard would send Dorothy to kill her, so the fact that Maguire avoids really getting into them is strange. Overall, though, it’s a well done twist on a familiar story, and it shows that there really are more sides to a story than we’d like to admit and even villains have histories. And it shows why more things should be in the public domain, damn it!!!!!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

The Ring of the Nibelung (Dark Horse).

Opera has to be hard to adapt, and Wagner’s more than most, because, let’s face it: opera isn’t very deep. I mean, you go to see operas because of the people singing, and not for the incredibly good story, and Wagner was particularly shallow when it came to his works, as this book shows. Opera is more egregious than most art forms when it comes to people foolishly falling in lust and thinking it’s love and then making idiotic pronouncements and promises that get them into trouble, and the Ring Cycle is rife with them, leading to the deaths of pretty much everyone. Siegfried is the dumbest person here, but he’s the hero and heroes in epic stories are often dumb as rock bags, so that’s not surprising. But Brunhilde is pretty stupid, Voton is dumb, Siegmund and Sieglinde are especially dumb (but they’re Siegfried’s parents, so perhaps that’s not surprising), and even the villains are kind of stupid.

It’s entertaining, though, which is good, because the story just serves as a vehicle for P. Craig Russell’s masterful art. Almost every panel could be a gorgeous work of art on its own, as Russell brings the world of hunky Germanic heroes and the women who love them to vivid, astonishing life. His details are stunning, his storytelling is amazing, and his design work is exemplary. He’s comfortable with the epic nature of the story, but he’s also perfectly capable of showing the range of emotions roiling the characters, far more than the dialogue allows. He turns Erda into a mysterious force of nature, the mermaids who guard the Rhinegold into flirtatious, beautiful, and cruel coquettes, Brunhilde into a mighty warrior, and Siegfried into someone we can believe Brunhilde would love. Obviously, the annoying tropes of fiction dictate that all the good people are beautiful and all the bad people are deformed, but Russell manages to give Miné and Alderich and Hagen a ragged and rough humanity, despite their diabolical machinations against the Aryan wet dreams that are Siegfried and Brunhilde. Lovern Kindzierski colors the book with bright, dynamic colors, making the operatic elements of the art sing with power. Russell strips down to just pencils without colors in the flashback scenes, which show what a skilled draughtsman he is and provide a nice contrast to the “finished” art. It’s a gorgeous book to look at.

If you’re a fan of Russell’s artwork, this is a great book to own. It’s not the best story in the world, even if we don’t think too much about Wagner’s unfortunate thoughts on race, but it’s still a good read, especially when you consider the dazzling visuals.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Nothing makes a dude happier than stabbing a dragon!

Twelve Devils Dancing (Action Lab).

I like crime comics, so I liked this, but it’s just okay in terms of being a good comic. It’s a standard crime/horror story, with a retired former FBI agent who’s a bit suicidal because he’s in the early stages of Parkinson’s. He caught a serial killer a few years ago, but he soon finds out that he got the wrong guy, and he planted evidence to make sure that dude went to jail. He teams up with a young woman who was kicked out of Caltech and is struggling along, and they try to find the real killer, who’s calling the FBI guy and taunting him. Meanwhile, FBI guy grew up in a cult, and he’s gay, which caused him some issues in said cult, and of course the cult has a bearing on the case.

Like I noted, it’s not bad. It’s packed with clichés, of course, but writer Erica Schultz at least tries to make them less tired, and she does a decent job with Callum and Aisha – they have a good relationship and they’re both smart, so they don’t do anything too stupid (I hate plots that force characters to do stupid things, and we don’t get that here). The addition of a minor character who gets involved with the killer is a smart choice, too, because it shows that not everyone in the world condemns people for what most people would condemn them for (the killer isn’t terribly sympathetic – he’s a killer, after all, but we do understand him and it’s clear that some people might even admire him). Dave Acosta’s art is utilitarian, but it gets the job done. This is nothing special, but again, I like crime comics, so I enjoyed it. If you don’t like crime comics, you should probably avoid this.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Man, mall cops get no respect!

Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder volume 5: The Gates of Heaven (Dark Horse).

I like the Hellboy-verse and buy almost everything connected to it (I may have missed a few here and there, but eventually I’ll track them down!), but I worry that they might be spreading things a bit too thin. Witchfinder is a great premise – a detective of the paranormal in the Victorian era – that fits Mike Mignola’s interests perfectly, and it’s been a pretty good series so far. Chris Roberson generally writes them well, and in this one, we get a different paranormal investigative group, one that believes more fervently in the supernatural than Edward Grey, so it’s a nice contrast to him. Plus, they give us a group of scientists who are trying to build machines based on the strange things archaeologists have dug up from ancient civilizations and alien landings and such, which is a good idea because of course a government would do that. D’israeli draws this, too, and he doesn’t do nearly enough American comics work, so it’s nice to see it when it shows up. It appears Michelle Madsen is coloring directly from pencils, because D’israeli’s lines look softer than they have in the past, but the work still looks tremendous. In the final confrontation, it almost looks like it’s taking place in one of those clubs where they have black lights and lots of neon, because the coloring is so striking, which is the point. It’s a beautiful-looking book, in other words.

But I’m getting a bit tired of stories in which some deranged individual is trying to call up some dark god or monster that’s been chained beneath the planet or in another dimension for time immemorial. I mean, these dudes are always trying to summon Cthulhu, and it’s not terribly interesting. As Grey investigates, there are some good moments, but we get the sense early on that it’s leading to some dude on a roof slicing open his hand to drip blood on a pentagram and the sky opening up, and that’s basically what we get. I know that Grey actually investigating things that won’t lead to the end of life on Earth as we know it might seem a bit dull, but I, personally, don’t think so, and would love to see far lower stakes in these stories. It’s the superhero-movie syndrome – not every Avengers or Justice League story has to be about the end of the world. So this is not a bad comic, but it is a disappointing one. Maybe Roberson and Mignola can ease up in the next volume!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

He’s not having a good day

Captain Marvel #1 (Marvel).

It’s a new #1 issue, which means, no matter who the hero is, we get dire narration to begin before things settle down. So the first two pages are annoying, but then Kelly Thompson can take over and bring us what she does best, which is characters talking to each other. Thompson is quite possibly the best dialogue writer working today, and dialogue is hard to get right, so it’s awfully impressive how good she is at it. Carol and Jessica have a good conversation while they’re fighting a (sigh) Cthulhu-type creature, and then Carol has good conversations with Tony Stark about Hazmat and then Hazmat herself, as Tony wants Carol to mentor the younger girl. Then we get Carol renewing her acquaintance (and possibly more) with James Rhodes, and that’s a good conversation. Even Carol’s banter with the Avengers while she’s fighting Nuclear Man is good. The issue zips along, but Thompson gets quite a bit into it, and while the Nuclear Man is a male chauvinist cartoon and utterly unworthy of Carol, his presence sets up an interesting premise. I really hope that the aspirational bon mots at the beginning (which are clichéd and dull) and the presence of Nuclear Man doesn’t mean that Thompson is going to hit the feminism hard. Yes, the message is great, but one of the things that can be great about fiction is that you don’t need to explain everything. Carol can be an example for women who read this (I would say “girls,” but Marvel and Thompson can’t be naïve enough to believe that many girls are going to read this) without it being so explicit. I mean, Nuclear Man’s “name” is Mahkizmo, for crying out loud. Maybe that worked in the 1970s, when he first appeared, but it’s groan-inducing these days. Still, this is a good beginning. Carmen Carnero, whose art I’ve never seen, is quite good, and even though Nuclear Man is silly, Thompson tries to make him a credible threat. I’ll get the trade, as this is a solid first issue.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Come on, Tony – Thor’s not wrong and you know it!

Criminal #1 (Image).

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips return to their best work together (well, I guess Sleeper might have a dog in the race), as they return once again to the Lawless family of miscreants. Technically, the graphic novel they did last year, My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies, fits into this universe too, but this is the proper return to it. Teeg Lawless shows up, as his other son (Ricky, not Tracy) steals something from an old man that he really shouldn’t have stolen, and as Ricky is still a teenager, Teeg needs to make it right. He goes to the funeral of an old friend/partner and realizes the dude was onto a big score, from which Teeg believes he can get the money to make up for his son’s stupidity. That’s the set-up, and it’s a perfectly good one. As usual, I don’t have a lot to say about this comic. It’s entertaining, well-written, well-drawn, and the characters are despicable but compelling. Brubillips know what they’re doing, so none of this is surprising. It’s good that Criminal is back in the comics world, in other words.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Never fuck with old people, Ricky!

Young Justice #1 (DC).

Bendis launches his “Wonder Comics” imprint at DC with a new iteration of Young Justice, which seems odd because I thought the original title was published at a time when DC didn’t have a Teen Titans book, and as Young Justice is basically a Teen Titans book, why not call it that? I guess branding doesn’t really matter, but it was just something that bugged me. Anyway, there’s not much to this issue – our main characters are introduced in stages, Bendis drops a few tantalizing hints about Wonder Girl not fighting a few pages before she, um, starts fighting, and the entire issue is basically one big brawl, as bad guys from Gemworld invade Metropolis and our heroes fight them off before getting transported to Gemworld itself, presumably so Amethyst can join the team eventually. It’s not a bad comic, but it is a bit relentless, and while Jinny Hex is a fun character and it’s always good to see Tim Drake, Bart Allen will never not be annoying, and he’s really dominant in this book once he shows up. I guess your capacity for enjoyment of this book is how much you can stand Impulse. Bendis has a decent idea – that someone one Gemworld has figured out that when Earth goes through a “Crisis,” the universe is affected, and Earth has had seven of those things (I’m not going to try to figure out which ones Bendis is counting), so Gemworld is a mess. That’s fairly interesting, if Bendis can make it interesting. It’s also always good to see Patrick Gleason drawing something, and his art here is far rougher than I’ve ever seen it, so I wonder what he’s doing differently. He’s hatching a bit more than he has in the past, adding slightly more texture to his figures, and Alejandro Sanchez’s colors look a bit flatter than recent colorists, which it seems aids the effect Gleason is going for. It’s gorgeous art as usual, but it is a little bit different than what we usually get from Gleason.

Bendis is doing this presumably so he can launch his Naomi, which shows up below. Gemworld probably shouldn’t be this “grim-‘n’-gritty,” but the explanation for why it’s so is pretty good, so we’ll see what Bendis does with it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Oh, Earth lawmen – they’re so draggin’ you!

Dread Gods volume 1 (IDW).

I was interested in this a while back when I first heard of it, as it’s Ron Marz and Tom Raney working from designs by Bart Sears, but it’s taken a long time to get this volume out, and who knows if more is forthcoming. So you might want to hold off on it until there are definitive plans for more, because this is just the first part of what seems to be a fairly long story, and that makes it a bit disappointing if it’s all there is. It’s not the worst idea – in a dystopian future, a tyrant gets energy from the prayers of the populace to strange versions of the Greek gods, whose lives are kind of like a reality show with American Ninja Warriors or another of those contest shows mixed in. Zeus is constantly fighting Hades, and his pantheon isn’t exactly squabbling with each other, but they aren’t all on board with Zeus either. A small dude named Carver who tools around in a makeshift wheelchair decides that he needs to rescue the gods, even though he’s not quite sure how or why. So he gets an ally, heads to the city, and they discover that the “gods” are kept in liquid-filled tanks, unconscious, and their lives are dreams. He manages to rescue them, but then the question becomes what to do with them. Of course, it’s there that the volume ends. Consarnit!

Marz’s story isn’t the most original, but it zips along nicely, and Raney’s art is always a treat. He does his typically nice job with the epic nature of the god stuff, and he creates a solid dystopian landscape that shows a decay in society, but not to the extent that you can’t believe people live there. The villain is creepy yet not completely outside the realm of possibility, and we get some nice action scenes. It’s an entertaining book, but I do wish that it was clear that Marz and Raney would be able to finish it. I suspect they won’t be able to, unfortunately.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Man, you shouldn’t say something like that, because you’re just setting yourself up for a deadly retort!

Rivers of London volume 6: Water Weed (Titan Comics).

I haven’t read any of the “Rivers of London” books, but I have read all the comics, and they’re nothing special, just entertaining police procedurals with a little magic sprinkled in. They’re tough to review because they are so inoffensive – there are fairly interesting characters, although none stand out too much; clever plots; the use of magic that fits into the case but doesn’t take over the plot; and some interesting villains. In this case, there’s a woman selling a potent strain of weed – why it’s so potent is pretty interesting – and the cops have to stop her. She becomes increasingly unhinged as the story moves along, but once we know why she’s that way, it makes much more sense. The police do their thing, and it’s nice, in this series, that they stop crimes and aren’t bad cops but they also understand that circumstances can factor into the crimes, so they’re not complete Manichean bad-asses. The comics have several recurring characters, but you honestly don’t need to read them in order – the cases are self-contained, and they make vague references to other volumes but nothing too deep. Lee Sullivan’s art is fine – it’s nothing special, but it gets the job done. I’m going to keep buying these mini-series, but I can’t say they’re anything all that special. They’re just interesting crime comics.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sounds like my kind of party!

Sally the Sleuth (Bedside Press).

I love when historical stuff gets reprinted, and so of course I was going to get this, and while it’s not great, it is quite interesting. Sally was the star of a strip that ran in “Spicy Detective Stories” from 1934 to 1943, and then again in Crime Smashers from 1950 to 1953. In the early years, the strips were two pages long, so the stories were very simplistic, with a big emphasis on, well, stripping. Sally and several other female characters lost their clothes at an alarming rate, making us wonder just how they made clothes in the 1930s and ’40s. By the time the strip was revived, it was a bit longer and Sally kept her clothes on, although the emphasis was still on her tomato-ness. It’s not terribly shocking that the writers present Sally as being competent at solving crimes but always needing rescuing by her boss, “the Chief,” but in the Fifties, she actually became a bit more competent, skillfully using a pistol on several occasions and even brawling a few times (which you can see on the cover). In the 1930s/1940s, she’s not much more than a cheesecake distraction, although she is rather fearless and occasionally figures things out. As usual with old comics, it’s unclear who’s writing or drawing – Adolphe Barreaux created Sally and presumably drew the early strips, and while artwork from the Golden Age often looks primitive, it’s quite fun and Barreaux is able to pack quite a lot into the small space allotted to him – plus, he got a lot of practice drawing women in various states on undress. In the 1950s, some of the stories are credited, with Max Plaisted and Keats Petree drawing some, and apparently Wallace Wood drew an uncredited story in this volume. The art is generally solid in the 1950s stories, although obviously some is rougher than others. Overall, this is a goofy comic that hints at comics creators trying to write women in a better way but always succumbing to their own prejudices. It’s fascinating in that regard. And everyone likes Golden Age reprints, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ (mainly for the historical importance, but they’re still fun to read)

One totally Airwolf panel:

This has to be a candidate for best panel in comics history, doesn’t it?

Black Widow #1 (Marvel).

Marvel tries again with Black Widow, because why not? They get Flaviano to draw it, which isn’t a bad choice but wouldn’t be my first, considering his work is a bit more cartoony than I think works on Black Widow, and they got Jen and Sylvia Soska to write it. I’ve never heard of them, but apparently they make and star in schlocky horror movies, so of course they’re a good fit for an espionage comic! I’m being a bit sarcastic, but sure, why not let them write it? I doubt if it will sell well because it’s, you know, a Black Widow comic and Marvel has never figured out how to sell a Black Widow comic, but they’re going to keep throwing it at the wall to see if it sticks! Good for them!

This is a fairly boilerplate first issue, in that the writers need to reassure us that Natasha is, yes, alive, and that Captain America is good again (remember when Cap was an agent of Hydra and everyone lost their shit and now he’s good again and no, I don’t care how that happened? Good times!), although they do it in an extremely weird way, as Cap and BW crash a New Year’s Eve party where a Faux-Cap is spouting anti-democracy crap to some party guests and the Soskas actually want us to believe that no one is bothered by this. I mean, I get that you might think this is the “real” Cap, but why would you let him get away with that even if he were the “real” Cap? It makes no sense. Anyway, they thwart Faux-Cap, but the Widder gets her blood all angried up, so she goes to Madripoor so she can kill a bunch of people without Cap cocking an eyebrow at her in disapproval. I always love how Captain America, WHO KILLED PEOPLE IN WORLD WAR THE SEQUEL, is the moral compass of Marvel on the whole “we don’t kill folks” thing. Really, Cap? Heroes don’t kill? Well, I’m sure all the German soldiers who weren’t Nazis and were just doing their jobs are glad that they were able to go home, slap on some lederhosen, and raise families while listening to James Last because you didn’t kill them. Anyway, Nat goes to Singap – I mean Madripoor, and what do you know, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a dozen people who need killin’! She’s offered a job by Tyger Tiger (there has to be a reason why it’s not Tyger Tyger or Tiger Tiger or even, heaven forfend, Tiger Tyger, right?) to find some bad dudes who are running a snuff web site, basically. Luckily, the bad guys come looking for them. Oh, it’s on, motherfuckers!!!!!

It’s not a bad first issue, but it’s just kind of there. We get the introduction that’s not really needed, we get something horrible happening, we get the bad guys showing up with “duh-duh-dummmmmmm!” music playing in the background, we get some ass-kicking – it’s all very by-the-book. It doesn’t really inspire me to get the trade, because I can probably figure out exactly how it’s going to play out, and when I can do that, why bother reading it? It looks nice, it’s mildly entertaining, and it makes us feel good about ourselves because we’re not horrible people and don’t run snuff web sites. So … yay?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Counterpoint: Natasha fights a giant robot

Marvel Comics Presents #1 (Marvel).

It’s Marvel’s 80th anniversary, so expect things like Black Widow above and a new iteration of Marvel Comics Presents, where Marvel just chucks things out there hoping that nostalgia takes over. I mean, anthology books sell so damned well, so why wouldn’t a new version of MCP sell like gangbusters, right? Frankly, I love anthology books. It gives creators a chance to work on lots of weird characters and gives artists, especially, a chance to draw without the pressure of a monthly book, and I would love it if both Marvel and DC did more anthology books and use their vast store of weird characters more. Of course, they still need to sell, so in this first issue we get a Wolverine story that’s the ongoing one, and two short stories with Namor and Captain America. In the Logan story, Charles Soule tells a tale of a woman calling up a demon to stave off some Nazis, but Logan manages to rescue her after her spell goes awry (thanks to the intervention of the Allies, who all die for their trouble). Logan becomes linked to the demon, and that will provide the main bulk of the story down the line, presumably. Paulo Siqueira, who’s always been a pretty good artist, only has to draw 10 pages, so he can really work on it, and the art is beautiful. The Namor story is annoying simply because Greg Pak goes the way most writers do and imply that Namor, as a freaking king, has never done anything objectionable so he can act as a moral compass when the ‘Muricans do something like drop an atomic bomb on Japan (yes, the first two stories are set during WWII), and if you believe that an effective king has never had to do something just a little morally compromising, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. (Namor’s American contact makes this point, as he reminds Namor that he killed thousands of Japanese with his bare hands after Nanjing, even if they were begging for mercy, but Namor pooh-poohs that by saying they were soldiers who had killed a bunch of innocent civilians, but did Namor really check to make sure that each and every one of them killed at least one innocent civilian? Maybe some of them just kept their heads down and didn’t kill anyone? My point is that Namor is a douchebag, which is usually my point when it comes to Namor.) Anyway, the story is fine – Namor is angry because the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb, and that makes him angry at humanity – but Tomm Coker’s art is superb, and he only has to draw 10 pages, and they’re amazing. (I don’t know if Coker is slow, but if he is, he doesn’t have to worry about it here). Even Greg Land’s art on the third story isn’t as terrible as his usually is, perhaps because he’s drawing Captain America, a teenager, and a blue-collar mom, so if he used porn models to trace, he can’t put them in skintight outfits like he usually does (his teenager looks like a grown-up, though, so maybe his internet searches didn’t bring up any actual teenagers for him to trace). Ann Nocenti’s story is kind of dumb, as Cap takes some down time to fix a girl’s bike and teach her that being a daredevil is awesome, despite her mother thinking her jumping over giant chasms might, you know, get her killed. I always love when writers use superheroes to teach “normal” people that doing dangerous things is awesome – if Cap crashed jumping over a gorge, he’s pick himself up and dust himself off, but if the girl crashed, she’d break several bones and might damage her brain. I get what Nocenti is going for – chase your dreams, blah blah blah, but she doesn’t do a good job of showing that parents have to walk a fine line between encouraging their kids to chase their dreams and making sure they don’t, you know, die. It’s another 10-page story, which isn’t long enough to get into all that, but Land’s art is … not awful? Let’s count that as a win!

So I like anthologies. Not enough to buy this one, of course, but that’s just because I object to buying Marvel and DC comics in single issue format anyway. But I hope this does well, and maybe in a few years they can publish my White Rabbit serial (you know I have an idea for a White Rabbit serial!!!!)!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s gonna leave a mark

The Lost City Explorers volume 1: Odyssey (AfterShock Comics).

I am all in on people exploring the layers of cities underneath our feet, so I figured this comic (which is a standalone story, despite the “volume 1” appended to it) would be worth checking out. It’s not quite as good as I hoped, but it’s pretty good. Five teenagers/young people (two might be in their twenties) discover a lost world under New York, where the protagonist’s dad was working on something top secret. In the first few pages of the book, we meet the dad and his team, and the dad appears to die. Of course he doesn’t, because it’s that kind of story, and his daughter, Helen (who calls herself “Hel,” because of course she does), wants to find out what happened to him. She and her best friend, Maddi; her brother Homer and his girlfriend June; and Edwin, a hacker Homer knows, end up finding out some bad things about what happened underground, and then they have to escape down there with the bad guys hot on their trail to find out what’s going on. The bad guys are, yes, a big corporation who want to pay out an insurance settlement (re: hush money) to Homer and Hel and get back to work with whatever the dad was working on, but another member of the team shows up and tells Hel not to listen to them and that her dad might still be alive. So it’s chase time!

I’m much more interested in the layers underneath New York than the supernatural mystery Hel and her friends have to solve, but I’m weird, so writer Zack Kaplan doesn’t do too much with that. I’m also not at all interested in the evil corporation trying to kill our heroes, but the book needs a bad guy, so there it is (I put forward that the dad is really the bad guy, but that’s just because I’m weird). There’s plenty of good stuff here, from Hel not knowing what she wants to do when she gets out of high school to Homer being the adult in the family because even before the dad disappeared, he had vanished into his work. There’s a page where the kids talk about their shitty home lives that is deadly dull, but that could have been expanded upon if Kaplan could get a longer series (if he couldn’t, it’s best to keep it out, because it’s terrible). Overall, it’s an entertaining yarn with a lot of unrealized potential, drawn nicely by Alvaro Sarraseca, whose work reminds me a bit of Trevor McCarthy’s. It’s not a great comic, but it’s not bad, either, and Kaplan almost keeps all the “coming-of-age” stuff on the fringes or in the subtext, which makes it more effective (except for that one page I noted, which is, as I also noted, terrible). Under-city explorers are fascinating, and while Kaplan doesn’t go enough into that sort of thing, the fact that he does at all makes this an interesting book, even if it could be better.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I wish I could be a reclusive crack-pot

The New World (Image).

I’m on the record in my claims that the “goodness” of any particular comic is about 2/3 due to the art; this has led to some dissension, but those people are so very wrong. I was an English major, I write some fiction, I love writers, but comics is a visual medium, and it’s become far easier for artists to let loose with their creativity than for writers, who are trapped by clichés. As an example, we have The New World. Ales Kot* is actually a pretty good writer; he’s done some bad stuff, naturally, but he’s also done some very good stuff. His writing on The New World is okay, I guess, but it’s nothing special. We get a fractured United States with several sections forming independent nations, and California takes over parts of Nevada and all of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas to become a new country (I doubt if Arizona and Texas would allow that, but whatever). We get a wall on the southern border, because of course we do, but it’s to keep people in as much as keep them out. Stella is a reality show star about cops who hunt fugitives down while they’re being filmed and then allow the audience to determine whether they should kill the criminals (something Stella has never done and promises she will never do, because she’s the hero). Kirby is a vandal who pretends to be an anarchist, and at a party one night, he and Stella bang, which makes life difficult because the government is looking for him (Stella’s grandfather is the president, because, again, of course he is). Stella is told to bring him in, but of course she ditches her life and runs off with Kirby, with the top reality show dude on her trail. And there’s a big secret about the government. Of course there is.

None of it’s bad, exactly, just frustratingly familiar, because we’ve seen all this before. The back of the trade claims it’s “in the vein of Mad Max and Romeo and Juliet,” which makes me think that the person who wrote the back of the trade blurb did not read this comic or is unfamiliar with both Mad Max and Romeo and Juliet, as this comic is like neither of them. It’s almost nothing like anything Mad Max-related except for the fact that it takes place after an apocalypse and one of the main characters is a cop, but those are so vague they don’t matter. It’s only slightly more similar to Romeo and Juliet in that the family of Juliet doesn’t want her to hang out with the enemy, but “Romeo’s” father is actually quite supportive of Kirby and Stella, pushing Kirby to admit that he loves Stella, and is integral to their plans to escape. It’s almost as if the person writing the back-of-the-trade blurb chose two financially viable stories in the hopes that people would make this financially viable, but that would be far too cynical, wouldn’t it? I mean, The Running Man is somewhat of a closer analog to the idea of reality TV stars hunting criminals, but that doesn’t get a mention!!!!! But my point is that the writing doesn’t make the story great, just familiar. The characters are fine, the plot is fine, and it has some humor in it that keeps it from being too dire. But Kot falls into far too many narrative traps – the characters mistake sex for love, the emotional content is too shallow to have much effect, the few deaths don’t resonate because we don’t know the characters well enough, the obviousness of the allegory to today’s political situation – to make this a great work. The writing is mildly entertaining, and that’s all.

Where the book shines, then, is Tradd Moore’s artwork. Moore has always elevated whatever book he’s working on, and that’s true here, as he turns Kot’s script into a strange, bizarre, hilarious, and violent mess. His loopy, curvy line work makes the book cartoonish, sure, but it also keeps things kinetic, giving even quiet scenes a sense of coiled, potential action. His attention to detail is marvelous, as each space the characters occupy has its own personality, from Kirby’s old-fashioned house set in the center of a modern, sterile street filled with cookie-cutter apartment buildings to Stella’s ultra-sleek apartment, from the presidential palace (once the Griffith Park observatory) to Molina’s overcrowded kitchen. There’s not a ton of fighting shown in the comic, but Moore’s choreography in the one big action scene is tremendous, as it has a lot of moving parts. Whatever pathos we get from the deaths of a few characters comes from Moore, as toward the end he gives us an amazing drawing of warriors locked in mortal combat, showing the futility of violence far better than Kot can. He dresses the characters in wild fashions, but which don’t seem too insane or “futuristic” – they look like things people today might wear, just tweaked enough to make them a bit alien. When Kirby and Stella meet at a night club, he twists and turns the characters to give us a sense of how Stella – who has taken drugs – sees the world, while Kirby – who’s straight-edge – is just enjoying himself, and the frisson of their relationship is palpable. Heather Moore, who colors the book, drenches that scene particularly in neon brightness, but the entire book is colored spectacularly, as well. It’s an astonishingly gorgeous book, and deserves to be lingered over.

This isn’t to say there aren’t excellent writers out there. This isn’t to say excellent writing doesn’t make a comic better to read. And great writing can trump mediocre or bad art, surely, but I would argue it’s easier for great art to hide mediocre or bad writing than vice versa (my go-to example for this are the pages Chuck Austen drew of Miracleman, which came very close to making Alan Frickin’ Moore seem like a lousy writer). The New World is a familiar story with nothing really new to say about totalitarianism, society’s obsession with fame, or even love, but Moore’s art makes it worth a look. So there you have it!

* His name is actually Aleš, but HTML can’t make it look any better than that, so I didn’t use it in the main body so as not to be distracting.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Man, you should know not to mess with cats!

Sherlock Holmes: The Vanishing Man (Dynamite).

Can anyone publish Holmes comics if they want to? Could Marvel, for instance? I’m just wondering because right now, Dynamite seems to have an exclusive on the character, but he’s in the public domain, so I assume it’s just not a thing other publishers want to do. These are the questions that vex me, people!

I’ve read a lot of Leah Moore and John Reppion’s Holmes comics, and this might be the last one I’m going to check out (assuming they do more, that is). It’s not that it’s bad, and Julius Ohta’s crisp art makes it one of the better-illustrated of their collaborations, but I’m a bit tired of Holmes stories that A) feature Moriarty; and B) feature Holmes’s cocaine addiction. First of all, I get that Moriarty is a good villain, but like the Joker, he’s not the end-all, be-all of bad guys, and why writers seem to think he needs to be in every Holmes story they write is beyond me. I mean, you’re already using established characters, so why not try to make a better bad guy than the one who, let’s be frank, barely appears in the original Holmes oeuvre? Similarly, the cocaine thing is getting ridiculous. It’s also barely mentioned by Conan Doyle, yet pastiche writers for years have shown Holmes practically diving into a pile of powder as if he were Tony Montana. Greg Hatcher has often commented on how he hates the dickishness of Holmes as written by other writers, and I agree, but I think I hate those two things more. Writers need to be more creative, yet they’re content to just tread in old, stale footsteps. I’ve thought the mysteries Moore and Reppion have written have been pretty good, but I don’t know – if they have any more in them, I might have to be careful about getting it and make sure these two things are nowhere near the story.

Anyway, this is a fairly decent story about a missing man, whose wife hires Holmes to find, and while it’s not a very good mystery (I figured it out early on, and if I figure something out, it’s not a very good mystery, as I am d-u-m), it’s not a terrible story. Unfortunately, Moore and Reppion shoehorn Moriarty in, and it comes off as Holmes being kind of dumb, which should never be the objective of a Holmes story (Holmes doesn’t have to be the smartest dude in the world, but he shouldn’t be dumb). There’s not only the case of the missing man, but several other crimes as well, and not all of them are connected. It would be a perfectly fine case but for the presence of Moriarty and cocaine. But they are there, and so it’s weakened a bit. Too bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

He was probably frightened of dying, so job well done!

Die Kitty Die: Heaven and Hell #1-4 + Kitty’s Cathouse of Horror Halloween Special (Chapterhouse Comics).

This series just keeps chugging along, and it’s completely inconsequential but still fun as hell. The art is terrific, the plots wispy, the sexual puns groan-inducing, the celebrity cameos cool (Bea Arthur as God shows up in this one), the satire obvious but still fairly savage, and the takedowns of the comics industry also obvious but not unnecessary. I can’t really say too much about these comics – Kitty gets into a bad situation, there are many tangents to her past, filled with nostalgic goofiness that also doubles as satire, we get some silly puns about her voluptuous body, she gets out of the predicament, and there’s a cliffhanger that leads to the next mini-series. It’s all in good fun, and the comics are enjoyable to read and almost instantly forgettable. Good times all around!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Too soon?

Naomi #1 (DC).

This comic seems to be the reason why Bendis is writing Young Justice, as I imagine this is a pet project of his and he had to agree to write some other things in order to get this launched, as this is probably a tough sell. For one thing, it’s a new character. For another, this first issue is really slow – Bendis missed the memo that maybe decompression isn’t quite the thing anymore, and this reads like it was written by circa-2000 Bendis. It’s very Bendis-y – there are two pages that have a 3 x 4 grid on them, each panel filled with a talking head saying brief things that tell us literally nothing that the art itself can’t tell us – Bendis missed the memo that comics are a visual medium and you can, you know, actually trust your artist – and there’s very little action, just two pages of Superman fighting Mongul. The rest of the issue is taken up by people telling us stuff, from everyone reacting to Superman in their town (Coast City, California, in case you want to connect some dots) to the title character (who missed the fight and is really upset about it) talking to her friends about it, to Naomi’s therapist telling her that she’s adopted (well, she already knows, but we have to find out somehow, don’t we?) and how that means she has “Superman complex,” meaning an adopted kid wants to find out they’re heir to the throne of Ruritania or something, to another page of people insisting that nothing like that has ever happened here even though Naomi knows that something did and we do, too, because there’s no comic without it, to a mysterious stranger giving Naomi a clue in what has to be the dumbest mysterious conversation ever. Here’s the dude talking to Naomi, in brief: “I remember something happening, and I was there, sort of, but wait I wasn’t there, so I can’t talk about it, but it happened this many years ago.” Sweet Fancy Moses, dude, you couldn’t be a more annoying exposition character if your name was literally Basil Exposition. When it happened is important to Naomi, which is what propels us into the second issue.

It’s not a very good issue, which upsets me, because I want to like things like this. There’s a reason why Astro City is so good, and focusing a book on “civilians” in the DCU should be fascinating. But Bendis is probably the only one with both the juice and the inclination to do this at DC, and unfortunately, that means we get Bendis in all his glory, which can be great, but here is just obnoxious. Jamal Campbell’s art is pretty good, although he cheats far too obviously – the panel I show below is the fourth on the page and the people in the background have not moved the entire time, while in two of the panels on the page, Naomi and the girl with the pink hair are in exactly the same pose even though in neither panel do the words match the pink-haired girl’s facial expression. But it’s fine art. David F. Walker is co-writer with Bendis, presumably because Naomi is black and Bendis didn’t want to do anything stupid, and while Walker is a solid writer and getting him to make sure Bendis doesn’t do anything stupid is probably a good idea, the comic is bizarre because Naomi is literally the only non-white character in the book. Everyone in the background is white, and not only aren’t there any black people (which, maybe?), there are no Hispanics, either (in California?), or, it appears, any Asians. Naomi’s Goth friend might be Asian? The mysterious stranger might be Hispanic, but if he is, making the only Hispanic in town a muscular, tattooed mechanic probably isn’t the smartest choice. Anyway, I usually don’t notice or care about these things, but I’m sure DC is making a big deal about Naomi being black, yet she’s the only one in what appears to be a fairly large city? And Walker and Campbell are both black, so it’s odd they didn’t throw some minorities in there. Anyway, it’s bizarre. It doesn’t make me dislike the book, but it’s weird. There’s also the Coast City angle. Coast City, of course, was destroyed in the 1990s by Mongul and Cyborg Superman, and that helped drive Hal Jordan crazy. I don’t know if that’s the event we’re supposed to think about when it comes to Naomi, but it seems reasonable. But DC has rebooted their universe so often that I don’t even know if that happened, and I don’t know how much pathos Bendis can wring out of it. I hope I’m wrong and the event is something completely different, but come on – Coast City? There’s only one reason you use Coast City in a comic these days, and that’s to reference Crazy Hal Jordan and Cyborg Hawk Superman and all that glorious Nineties crap. We’ll see.

I’ve written way too much about a mediocre comic. Let’s move on!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Someone who loves Superman that much deserves to be messed with!

Sink #7 (ComixTribe).

Sink continues to be a terrific comic, as John Lees and Alex Cormack bring us another nasty tale about life in Glasgow, one that sprinkles in just enough humor among the horror to elevate the book from the rest of the genre. This time we get Jordan, who’s a member of the evil gang that terrorizes the neighborhood, as he tries to find a way to move into the upper echelon of the gang before his 30th birthday in a week. If he doesn’t do something suitably horrible, he has to visit the boss – a character we’ve met before – and explain himself, and no one has high hopes for his survival. The problem is that Jordan is a nice guy and also completely inept at evil, so he’s flailing around trying to find something horrible to do and not having much luck (see below). Lees gives us a couple of twist endings that are both darkly humorous and keeping with the nasty tone of the book, and another chapter to Sinkhill’s legacy is complete. Cormack’s jagged artwork continues to match the tone of the book perfectly, and Lees continues to show that he’s very good at these single-issue stories. Sink shouldn’t be too hard to find, so check it out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Yeah, probably not a good idea

The Chair (Alterna).

The Chair was originally published in 2008 and then reworked, apparently, in 2017, and now we get a nice trade. It’s also, according to the cover, a “major motion picture,” which, if you count any script that actually gets made rather than languishing in turnaround for decades “major,” I guess counts. The Chair is Roddy Piper’s final film role, and it also stars Zach Galligan (yes, that Zach Galligan), so “major” might be stretching it, but sure, why not?

It’s not a great comic, though, but it has some potential. The art, by Kevin Christensen, is a bit of a mess. It’s rough and gritty, which isn’t really a problem, and neither is the stiffness of the characters – newer artists often have problems with fluidity – but the storytelling isn’t great. The perspective is often wonky, making characters look different sizes when they shouldn’t, and too often the focus is so tight that we either can’t tell what’s going on or we’re seeing only the smallest part of a bigger whole. It’s meant to be claustrophobic – the book takes place in a prison, after all – but it shouldn’t be at the expense of clarity. The new warden, who shows up toward the end of the first issue, even changes appearance slightly, from a more crazed, sadistic weirdo to a more thoughtful person, and it’s strange because Christensen draws him differently for seemingly no reason. The rough shading in the book is quite good, though – I don’t want you to think that there’s nothing redeemable about the way the book looks – and Christensen does make the prison seem horrible, which it’s supposed to be, but overall, the art isn’t great. Peter Simeti’s story is just okay, too – Richard Sullivan has been on death row for a decade, claiming his innocence, surrounded by killers, and the new warden decides that torturing him is just the thing. It’s a brutal story, and Simeti does a pretty good job of making Sullivan a sympathetic character – we don’t know if he’s innocent, but at least he seems more decent than his fellow inmates – but of course there’s a twist – more than one, in fact – and we get a fairly interesting look at what makes a man into a monster and who the monsters really are. It’s a well-worn path, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile, and while Simeti’s story doesn’t uncover too much that’s new, he still does an okay job of getting us there.

The Chair is not a bad comic, and it’s only 10 dollars, so it might be worth taking a look at. I wonder how the movie is …

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You just know that’s how our president gets his jollies on a Saturday night

Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die (Marvel).

Well, this was oddly disappointing. I wanted so much to like this, and I did like good chunks of it, but I’ll get to why it was disappointing. First of all, Dylan Burnett’s frenetic, cartoony art is terrific – he gets across the absurdity of the Punisher as Ghost Rider and the silliness of Baby Thanos quite well, but he’s also very good at the slaughter that we find in these pages (oh, so much slaughter) as well as the terrifying aspects of Galactus and Thanos. Some dude in the comic book store asked me this past week if Burnett’s art was any good (he drew an issue of X-Force, I believe?). He and the dude who works at the comic book store don’t like “cartoony” art, so I told him that there’s a difference between “good” art and “art I don’t like.” If Burnett can tell a story without confusion and use facial expressions and body language to get across what the writer is saying, then he’s a good artist. If you don’t like his style, that’s a whole different thing. People forget that too often. I get that a lot of old-school comics readers aren’t fans of the more cartoony stuff that shows up in a lot of Marvel books these days. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad art, and Burnett’s art on this book is astounding. Antonio Fabela’s vivid palette is amazing, as well.

Donny Cates has the idea that has intrigued science fiction writers forever – killing Hitler in his crib. So Frank Castle, bored with Asgard (let’s not get into why he’s in Asgard), is sent away by Odin before he causes more trouble in the god realm and he decides that the best use of his time is to “kill Hitler” – in this case, Cosmic Hitler, i.e. Thanos, when he’s a baby. Unfortunately for him, Baby Thanos is innocent, so Castle decides to raise him “right” so that he won’t turn into Cosmic Hitler. This is a monumentally bad idea (the Watcher claims he’s there to watch someone make the worst decision in the history of thought, so there’s that), and it turns out monumentally bad. Cates’s entire story is an excuse to show Cosmic Punisher annihilate people and add an ironic twist to Thanos’s history. It’s not a bad idea, and Cates does a pretty good job with it.

So why am I disappointed? Well, I’m not a stickler for writing a character how he or she has always been written, but I do think established characters ought to have a basic framework of how their character is, especially because so many writers will work on the character. Cates gets Castle completely wrong, and it takes me right out of the story. His Castle has gone insane, which might be the reason for it, but he’s a wise-cracking goofball who turns to mush pretty quickly when the plot requires him to. Again, I don’t need every Punisher story to feature the exact same kind of character, but the Punisher has a basic framework, and this character isn’t the Punisher. I don’t know why it bugs me, but I think it has to do with the fact that some genius at Marvel (Cates himself, maybe), thought “hey, Cosmic Ghost Rider … and it’s Frank Castle!!!!” and thought it would blow fanboys’ minds but didn’t think much more about it. So they took a character who is really at odds with this kind of story and slotted him in there, and when dour Frank Castle didn’t work, they turned him into a different person. Certain characters don’t work in certain stories, and Frank Castle doesn’t work in this one. There’s a reason why writes course-correct whenever Spider-Man gets too dark and why dark Spider-Man stories are very few and far between – the character is too optimistic (you can do dark Spider-Man stories, but they always seem slightly off). Nobody has ever Dark Knight Returned Superman because he’s not Batman. I get that this series might not have existed if Frank Castle isn’t in it, because of $ale$, but it’s just a weird tonal problem that never gets resolved. It doesn’t ruin the story, but it does weaken it a bit.

Still, Galactus getting shot out of a cannon is a nice visual gag. This is a fun book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You do NOT fuck with Baby Thanos!

The Collected Toppi volume one: The Enchanted World (Lion Forge).

Sergio Toppi was an artistic genius, and ever since I first came across his art a few years ago, I’ve been hoping for more stuff in English, and it seems that Lion Forge is committed to that, so you should all go buy this so that they continue with the series. In this volume we get a bunch of short stories from 1979-1997, with most of them from the 1980s, and they fall under the same kind of theme, as you can see from the title: characters either become enchanted, occasionally with dire consequences, or they break enchantments. There’s the story of the family who meets a witch in the forest and dismiss her somewhat rudely, which you should never do with a witch; there’s a lighthouse keeper who starts seeing ghosts, which is never a good thing; there’s the ogre and his unhappy wife (the funniest story in the book); there’s the woman who lives the forest and meets up with a sex-starved hunter, which can’t lead to happiness for him; there’s the guy who makes dolls, and man, they are not the kind of dolls you want to cross; there’s the god in the mountains who is annoyed by a lonely hiker; plus many others. They don’t all feature some ironic twist, but most of them do. They’re fun stories, but they’re basically there to show off Toppi’s artwork, and it’s phenomenal. His intricate linework, his use of the entire page to create collages instead of using traditional panels (there are plenty of those, but he’s not bound by them), his use of large inky black areas to create negative space where he can etch dazzling white images, his use of perspective to disorient readers and give us a true sense of scale, his attention to detail to make the animals and people look real and thereby heighten the unreality of what’s happening, his terrific sound effects – it’s all amazing, and it all makes many other artists look like amateurs. Toppi is one of those guys who pushed the boundaries of what is possible in comics, and his work should be more accessible in the States so we can see what artists like Walter Simonson and Bill Sienkiewicz were reacting to when they started pushing boundaries. This is a nice hardcover and it’s only 25 dollars, so check it out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s not going to end well for somebody

Her Infernal Descent (AfterShock).

Co-writers Lonnie Nadler and Zac Thompson wrote The Dregs, which is a terrific mini-series, so I figured I’d give this one a chance. It’s a retelling of “Dante’s Inferno”* in a modern setting, with a grieving mother standing in for Dante (who has a cameo in the book; this seems inevitable, so of course the writers threw him in). Lynn’s family is dead, and she doesn’t know how to live with herself, but she gets a chance to figure things out when she meets the ghost of William Blake, who becomes one of her guides through Hell (the other is Agatha Christie, but she doesn’t come in for a while). Nadler and Thompson update Hell for a more modern age, which is clever, peopling it with several well-known artists and politicians from history (some living ones are there, too, which is annoying because it’s clear the writers are just showing their political bent and it doesn’t mean much in the context of the story) and leaving some out, they note in the afterword, because estates can be surprisingly litigious. The crux of the story is that Lynn doesn’t believe she deserves to be redeemed because she’s carrying around a secret about her family’s death, and when she finally can come to terms with it, everyone can be set free from the torment they create for themselves. It’s not a particularly original idea, and Lynn’s secret is something that she should have dealt with long before (I get why she doesn’t, but it’s the kind of thing that almost everyone has to deal with in their lives, and while it’s nice that it’s universal, it also means that everyone who has dealt with it will be saying “Just get on with it already”). Maybe I’m just a cynical jerk, but part of the problem is that the writers, like far too many writers before them, don’t make an effort to make us care about the characters. We don’t know Lynn’s family and never really do, and even Lynn is just a plot vehicle for much of the book, so when she starts breaking down, we don’t care enough about her for it to have an impact. This doesn’t matter in more plot-driven comics, but this book is supposed to be about a woman’s redemption, but we don’t get a sense of who she is and why she even deserves redemption, so ultimately we don’t care. Perhaps the writers, like far too many writers before them, just assumed that “losing your entire family” would be enough for us to care, but that’s such an abstract concept in this comic that even if we try to relate, it’s difficult (I’ve been closer to losing a part of my family than many people, and even I have a hard time conceptualizing it). So while the story is interesting, especially the modernization part of Hell, and the art is perfectly fine (although Kyle Charles didn’t finish it, which makes me wonder why and breaks up the consistency of the art just a little), it’s a bit disappointing. Oh well.

* Yes, I know there’s no such thing as a poem called “Dante’s Inferno.” Leave me alone, you pedants!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That is a woman who likes her soup

Shanghai Red (Image).

Christopher Sebela’s story of a woman who was shanghaied from Portland in the 1890s and managed to hide her identity on board the shop, successfully mutiny, and return to Portland to exact bloody revenge isn’t particularly deep, even though it delves into political corruption and the treatment of women in the U.S., but it is quite intense. Molly, her mother, and her sister Katie end up in Oregon after leaving Oklahoma and trekking halfway across the country because their father/husband took off, but not after he taught Molly quite a bit about surviving. The relevancy for this story is that she knows how to shoot. She also knows other skills, but when they arrive in Portland, she has to disguise herself as a man to get work because no one takes a woman seriously. This leads to her getting shanghaied, because the villains don’t know she’s a woman (Sebela points out that the idea of dropping someone into tunnels to kidnap them is probably not historically accurate, but it makes for good fiction). She kills the crew, drops off the other hostages (but for one, who sticks around because he realizes it’s a good move to hang around someone as capable as she is), and goes back, where she finds out her mother is dead and her sister is working in a whorehouse. That doesn’t deter her, as she begins to cut a bloody swath through Portland’s criminal class and up into the political class, who are just a cleaner and richer bunch of criminals anyway. In a revenge story, the only question is whether the person will get their revenge and live happily ever after or whether the person will get their revenge and die right afterward, and I’m not telling what happens with Molly. We know, or suspect, that Molly will finish her quest, so Sebela makes the book about other things, like corruption and how women were treated during this time. Molly loses her identity and creates a new one as a man, but other women still have to deal with the police and government as women, and Sebela does a nice job showing that each person makes their own choices, and how even women can get swept up in the culture of corruption. He also checks in with the Chinese people in the city, who lived in a kind of underbelly where they were largely invisible but also able to affect things quite a bit. He doesn’t make a big deal about these things, just puts them into the flow of the story, and it works to create a good portrait of 1890s Portland. It’s a bloody story, and at one point, it gets a tiny bit ridiculous, but otherwise, it’s a very good book. Joshua Hixson’s rough art, which reminds me of 1980s-David Mazzucchelli, brings this shadow world to life very well. He uses a lot of reds and blues to make the book look violent and dark, and he works the big black chunks into the panels beautifully. It’s a nice-looking comic, and it’s a good story told well. That ain’t bad!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Coming up with sound effects to awful things has to be fun, right?

Son of a Witch (Regan Books).

The second of Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked” books isn’t as good as the first, but it’s not bad. With the Wicked Witch dead, he focuses on Liir, who Elphaba (the witch) brought with her to her final home in the first novel after she recovered at a “mauntery” – the Oz version of a nunnery – when she left the Emerald City. Nobody important knows if Liir is her son or not – some “maunts,” presumably, know, but they ain’t telling – and therefore Liir functions poorly in life, as he doesn’t really know who he is. That leads to this book and its problems, as Liir doesn’t really have much of an active role in his own life. Maguire is too good a writer to let that stop him, as Liir kind of ends up in important places without it seeming contrived, but it’s also frustrating, because he’s such a cipher that everyone else kind of places their own expectations on him, and even as he gains confidence (which he does as the book moves on), he’s trapped in circumstances that are far beyond his control. His big moment comes when he rallies the talking birds of Oz and leads them into open rebellion against the Emperor (who took over after the Wizard left and the interim government of Oz was shuffled off), but that doesn’t lead to anything, at least in this book, and Liir doesn’t have all that much to do with it anyway. Like a lot of books in series, the first book feels more complete because Maguire wasn’t sure if he’d write another one, while this one feels more of a part of a whole because by this time Maguire was successful enough so he knew he’d continue the story (with two more books, as it turned out). So he can keep some things hanging, but it makes the book feel less than complete. It’s not a bad book, and Maguire’s deft touch with creating interesting characters makes it work quite well, and even the plot is interesting as long as you’re not expecting complete resolutions to things, but it would have been nice if Liir himself had shown a bit more growth. I assume he’ll show up in the next two books (there are still unresolved plots from this book), but we’ll see how that goes. This is a decent book, but it’s something you should read only if you’re keen on reading the entire series, unlike the first book, which you can read completely on its own.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

I also bought some trades this month but didn’t read (I bought some single issues I didn’t read, but they’re part of story arcs that I’ll read soon enough – these might take a bit longer to get to), so here they are:

Every month I buy some comics that I just can’t read. Usually it’s because they’re such big chunks of comics that I simply don’t have time with all the other stuff I buy, so I just put them away for a better time. That’s the case with B.P.R.D., The Brave and the Bold, Conan the Barbarian, Lance, and The Unknown Anti-War Comics. I also don’t have volume 2 of B.P.R.D. yet, so I’m waiting on that. I’ve read some of The Brave and the Bold because DC has already collected it. Lance is Warren Tufts’s long-running strip, and it’s absolutely gorgeous, but it’s huge. And the Yoe book is just a lot of stuff. I tend not to read manga until the series is complete – I usually read volume 1 and decide then if I want to keep reading – so I’m waiting on those two volumes. The Lone Sloane book is short, but really dense, so while it’s not as long as the others, it takes a long time to get through (it’s also stunning-looking, which doesn’t mean I can’t read it but I thought it was worth mentioning). Finally, I missed a trade of Daredevil a while back – I don’t know why my store didn’t get it – so I’ve been behind on that ever since, and I keep forgetting to just buy the confounded thing. I’ll get to it eventually. I will say that I read the introduction to Conan, and it’s fascinating, and I’ve read the first five issues, and they’re terrific. But it’s huge, so it will take me a while to get through.

Let’s check out the money I spent in January!

2.1.19: $125.76
9.1.19: $214.23
16.1.19: $212.52
23.1.19: $112.69
30.1.19: $92.82
Total: $758.02

Well, that’s a good start to the year, isn’t it?


I often write about other stuff here, but it’s already a few days into February, so I don’t want to wait to post this much longer. I hope most of you are keeping warm (I assume some of you live in places that aren’t cold, like I do – it’s in the low 60s here), and I hope you’re well. Next month I’ll try to make time to ramble more!!!!


  1. tomfitz1

    Bendis: I wish that DC would give him a BATMAN book to write. That really would be in his milieu as crime/noir fiction is where he does his best work.

    P. Craig Russell: I enjoyed reading The Ring series from Dark Horse years ago. For someone who has made a career out of adapting opera-related stories to comics – this series is one of his best works. Currently adapting American Gods by Neil Gaiman. the third part is due out later this year.

    Brubaker/Phillips: I usually enjoy their collaborations and Criminal is no exception to that rule. Sleeper remains the only book that I haven’t read yet.

    Aftershock: I usually read the Garth Ennis’ books, but have read some of the older titles.
    Speaking of which, American Monster by Azzarello hasn’t any new issues out for quite some time – does any know why?

    So Marvel Comics is celebrating their 80th year of publication and I’ve read some of their stuff for half that long. The new MC Presents sounds interesting, although Wolverine in that costume has always been my favorite version. (never like that yellow costume)

    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: I think a Bendis Batman book would be fascinating. I don’t know how good it would be, but it would be fascinating!

      I don’t know what happened to Azzarello’s book. It hasn’t been in Previews in a while, I’ll tell you that much.

  2. I’ve yet to read anything by Bendis that I liked. I tried Powers which I gather was what put him on the map, but that didn’t click with me either.
    I was enthused about the Shadow/Batman, but Snyder’s Batman stuff is crap and I’m not very fond of Orlando. And I don’t like the connected premise — Denny O’Neill did it better in the Bronze Age by just having them meet a couple of times.
    I’m not a fan of Wicked the book but the musical is fun. It is dark, but as the producer of “Jelly’s Last Jam” said, musicals have had dark elements for a long time: South Pacific takes place in the PTO, deals with racism and has one of the supporting characters die. Cabaret takes place in Nazi Berlin.
    I agree about the over-use of Moriarty. John Clay, from “Red Headed League” would make a fun alternative.
    ” It’s the superhero-movie syndrome – not every Avengers or Justice League story has to be about the end of the world.” Agreed. I frequently finish a modern TPB and find myself wishing for a simple story in which the hero defeats a supercriminal and goes home to bed.

    1. Greg Burgas

      frasersherman: Bendis’s Caliber work and/or early Image work (I’m not sure how much was originally from Caliber) is quite good – Goldfish, Torso, and Jinx especially. His Alias is superb, and Daredevil is quite good. I never liked Powers, so I’m with you there!

      Yeah, I’m not saying that Wicked couldn’t be made, but I wondered how. I don’t see a lot of musicals at all, so I was just curious what they did with some of the darker aspects of it. I suppose I should see it at some point!

      Good point about John Clay. Even Irene Adler could be a villain, although I get why they wouldn’t want to make her too evil.

      1. Louis Bright-Raven

        RE: Early Bendis —

        I always have to tell you this, don’t I, Burgas?

        AKA Goldfish, Fire and Jinx were all originally Caliber, and Torso was launched at Image.

        What initially put Brian “on the map” as Frasersherman put it, however, was his run on McFarlane’s SAM & TWITCH spinoff title. His creator owned crime noir stuff at Caliber / reprinted at Image continued at Image were all critically acclaimed but didn’t exactly get sales. It was S&T and it’s ties to the SPAWN audience that put his work in front of the general fandom’s eyes first. Then POWERS came in, which got both critical and financial success, and ultimately drew him over to Marvel.

        1. Greg Burgas

          frasersherman: That’s probably why writers haven’t used Irene more. There’s such a tendency to skew the villain toward absolute evil, and it just wouldn’t work with her. Damn it, she could just be a very clever criminal!

          Alias is excellent. I will always be interested in Bendis because of his early work (particularly Alias), even though I don’t think he’s that great a writer anymore.

          1. Louis Bright-Raven

            ” I will always be interested in Bendis even though I don’t think he’s that great a writer anymore because of his early work”

            Just clarifying… you mean you don’t think he’s a great writer anymore because his current stuff doesn’t measure up to the early work, or because you think the early work was bad, too? LOL

            Brian… needs a swift kick or three by some real editors, which he hasn’t had either in ages. He’s got the talent, but everyone needs someone who can reign them in and keep them on track, and he’s been running rocket sled on rails for so long, given carte blanche to do whatever he damned well pleases, that I think Marvel needs to redesign Ego the Planet in his visage. 😉

          2. Moran is another option.
            Or if you must use Moriarty, use him as the spider at the center of the web. Set it early enough that while Moriarty sees Holmes as a problem to work around rather than an enemy to destroy. And Holmes adversary is some Criminal McLawlessPants who’s doing the front work.

          3. Greg Burgas

            Louis: Whoops, yeah, that’s poor sentence construction. I went back and changed it.

            That’s true about editors. I’ve thought for a long time that Stephen King needs a good editor, because that dude can just go on and on and on. But his stuff sells, so I guess no one wants to tell him to stop writing 1200-page doorstops!

          4. It’s funny, because this touches on one of my Holmesian pet peeves — mischaracterizing Irene Adler.

            She wasn’t a criminal. She was, if anything, the 1890s equivalent of Stormy Daniels — she’d had a fling with the King of Bohemia and when he was about to get married he was freaking out about a photo of the two of them together. (Not even a naughty photo; the bar for scandal was considerably lower in the Victorian era.) So the King sent thugs to break into her place and even hold her up on the road and they got nowhere, and then finally he engaged Sherlock Holmes to suss out where she had hidden the photo. Irene outwitted Holmes as well, married the guy she really loved, and fled England, still in possession of the photograph.

            Those are the events according to Doyle, and in that story Holmes is the criminal. He is essentially a hired thief. What’s more, he enlists Watson to help him commit the crime.

            Now, it’s clear that Miss Adler holds no particular grudge against Holmes and rather enjoyed the battle of wits, but nevertheless maintains that the King has “cruelly wronged” her and it’s clear by the end of the narrative Holmes agrees that the King is a jerk.

            That’s it. That’s all there is to it. It was William Baring-Gould that postulated there was some kind of a thing between Holmes and Irene, and many pastiche authors have happily run with that, making it into a sort of Batman-Catwoman dynamic. But ’tain’t so.

            The only author who– in my opinion –has gotten it right is Carole Nelson Douglas, who has written a series of novels with Irene as the heroine. The first three are the best but they are all entertaining… and all quite faithful to Doyle’s text. The first book is basically a retelling of the events leading up to “A Scandal in Bohemia” and then the story itself, from Irene’s point of view.

            …sorry, sometimes I can’t help myself.

          5. Greg Burgas

            Greg: That’s a good point – it’s been a while since I’ve read A Scandal in Bohemia, so I had forgotten the particulars. My point is that Irene could easily be portrayed as a criminal because she did outsmart Holmes and she was the tiniest bit shady. So many writers turn her into a love interest for Holmes (which I agree is a bit silly), but if a writer wanted to write something about how she turned to crime, I think it could work without wrecking her characterization in the original story.

            But this is just me spitballing. If pastiche writers really wanted to, they could simply invent a good villain! 🙂

  3. fit2print

    “Aaron is a decent enough writer, but he doesn’t seem like a really good fit on superhero books, but Marvel doesn’t have anything big enough for him that’s not superheroes, except now they have Conan.”

    Couldn’t agree more re: the awkward fit.

    I loved Aaron’s work on Scalped, The Other Side, Men of Wrath and Southern Bastards but because I lost interest in superheroes eons ago, I’ve read very little else that he’s written (his short run on Black Panther was great, but I think that’s mostly because it wasn’t technically a superhero arc). I suppose Conan is fine, too, though he was and remains fairly one-dimensional character so it’s not necessarily a title I’ll be following religiously (yes, not having me as a reader would break Aaron’s heart, I’m sure)

    Rather than staying the course of writing titles to which he is not particularly well suited (superheroes) and those that, to me anyway, have been pretty much wrung dry (Conan), I truly wish Aaron could make the sort of leap that Ed Brubaker did years ago, post-Captain America (which I didn’t actually read), and devote himself to writing an even greater number of passion projects for which he IS the right fit.

    Admittedly, I’m not in any position to decide the course of Mr Aaron’s career but gauging the quality of the titles mentioned at the top against that of the handful of his superhero titles that I’ve read (hardly a big number, but still…), I respectfully submit that it would be the right move to make both financially (ask Brubaker how he’s doing since leaving Marvel) and in terms of creativity (and creative freedom).

    Okay, well, I can dream, right?

    1. Greg Burgas

      fit2print: I wonder if Aaron has considered ditching the Big Two like Brubaker did. It’s not like Brubaker was any more established than Aaron is right now, and he seems to be making it work quite well (so is Brian K. Vaughan). I don’t love all of Aaron’s work, but he does have talent, so I’d like to see him try that. We shall see!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Edo: Ha! I’ve written about it before, but not too often, and we mention it occasionally in our Previews posts, but yeah, it’s not that huge a comic. It’s a lot of silly fun, though, so you should track it down!

      1. Edo Bosnar

        But, but, but … those Previews posts are so *long*, you don’t expect me to read them *all* the way through, do you?
        Actually, kidding, I do (usually). The thing is, I was aware of the title and recall that you mentioned it here and there in the Previews posts, but it just never registered with me that it was done by a pair of Archie alums. I’m definitely interested now, though.

  4. I care about story more than art, so I probably was more annoyed by the Batman/Shadow book than you were. I hope you didn’t pay full price for it… I scooped my copy up in hardcover, remaindered, for about six dollars. Even that felt like too much once I was done.

    It’s hard to screw up Conan, though a couple of guys have managed it. I’ll probably look into it eventually, once it’s collected and it’s available for cheap. I really dug Aaron’s Ghost Rider stuff and Conan’s not actually all that far away from it in its tone. (Chuck Dixon once remarked that his run on Savage Sword had a fairly large following in the biker community. Go figure.)

    1. Yeah, both of those interconnected recent Shadow/Batman books were pretty lousy, story-wise–a huge disappointment for me as a Shadow fan.

      I was even more disappointed that they were too cheap to reprint the 1970s Batman/Shadow crossovers in the trades, though.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Peter: The coloring is great. I think Marvel might have learned their lessons from some of the early stuff, and they’ve pretty much left it alone. There’s a credit for “restoration,” but it appears – without me having seen the originals – that they pretty much simply restored the color and didn’t mess with it at all. I don’t know if any of the originals were “off-register” at all, but that might be what they cleaned up. Other than that (if that happened), it certainly look like the original coloring, without all the shaded, over-rendered stuff. The colors are nice and flat and absolutely gorgeous.

  5. Louis Bright-Raven

    RE: Jason Aaron comparison to Ed Brubaker —

    1) Ed has been in the business for over 30 years (he started in either 1986 or 87).

    2) Jason has been doing superhero comics since his first assignment (Wolverine #175, 2001). It’s great that you all prefer his creator owned works, but he’s been a regular superhero writer for much of his career, and he certainly isn’t an ‘awkward fit’. Hell, the only thing I’ve seen out of Marvel in the past 15 years that I’d actually consider buying for my own collection is his Lady Thor run. If you aren’t caring much for his work at Marvel consider the fact that he’s probably just got way too damned many titles on his plate, like many writers these days, because nobody’s getting paid worth a damn and nobody’s books are selling.

    3) The only way Jason is leaving Marvel, is if they fire him or if / when Hollywood comes calling to adapt his creator owned work or to write new material for them. That’s why Brubaker, Faerber, Remender, Vaughn and the like are where they are – because Hollywood came calling. Not because they had some burning desire to do creator owned comics. Don’t let them or anybody else kid you.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Louis: I know why all those dudes left Marvel/DC, and it would be nice if Aaron could get some of that sweet, sweet Hollywood money too! 🙂

      I think he’s a very awkward fit for superhero comics. His sensibilities run toward stuff like Scalped or Conan, which is why his Ghost Rider is probably the best thing he’s done for Marvel. His Thor work just doesn’t work terribly well because he doesn’t do epic very good. I agree also that he probably writes too many titles, and that’s an issue, but it doesn’t change the fact that his writing style doesn’t really work with superhero books. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that superhero books are, unfortunately, where the money is.

  6. Louis Bright-Raven

    “I know why all those dudes left Marvel/DC, and it would be nice if Aaron could get some of that sweet, sweet Hollywood money too!”

    Oh, he’s gotten some – SCALPED was optioned, was supposed to come out as a TV series through WGN America. The pilot got made, but I believe it just got passed on last November, due in part to WGN’s parent company being bought out. SOUTHERN BASTARDS was optioned also, for FX. So don’t worry, he’s gotten a taste. (It may only be a taste and not a steady diet, like the other guys we’ve cited, but even that can be a reasonable chunk o’ change.)

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