What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – January 2020

“You’re judging by past history.”

“All history is past history.”

“All right. Touché. But it doesn’t have to repeat itself.”

“Doesn’t it?” (Wallace Stegner, from Angle of Repose)

Salonica: City of Ghosts (Alfred A. Knopf).

Mark Mazower gives us a book about the city of Salonica, or Thessalonica, or even Thessaloniki if you’re feeling particularly Greek, and it’s pretty interesting. He begins with the Ottoman conquest of 1430, because when Salonica was a Byzantine city, it was much smaller and pretty much a backwater. The Ottomans, the most powerful empire in possibly the world during the 1400s and 1500s, made it possible for it to become a major trading city, as it lay on the crossroads of the Balkans and was opened up to trade from Ottoman Asia far more than it had been under the Byzantines (who no longer ruled the Middle East after the 600s when the Arabs conquered everything). It became one of the odd cities of Balkan Turkey, as it remained Ottoman until 1912, despite the independence movements in Greece to the south and Bulgaria to the north, so it retained its Ottoman flavor long after other Greek cities in the Peloponnese, like Athens. It was an international city, and Mazower does a good job showing how the Greeks, Turks, and Jews (the three main ethnic groups) lived together for centuries, finding ways to solve their problems that didn’t involve killing everyone. Mazower, like some historians of this era, seems to imply that nationalism was not necessarily a good thing (the question of whether nationalism is good or bad comes up a lot in European histories of the late 19th/early 20th centuries), as it turned “Salonicans,” who didn’t think of themselves necessarily as “Greeks” or “Turks” or “Bulgars” or “Jews,” into warring factions, ripping the city apart. We get a good overview of the Greek occupation of 1912 and the later migrations of peoples in and out of the city – in 1922, thousands of Greeks from Asia Minor ended up in the city after the Turks drove them out, and thousands of Turks left the city because the Greeks made them. Of course, he also delves into the Jewish question and the Holocaust, as the city’s Jews suffered far more than those in the more southern cities of Greece, as the Greek government still didn’t consider it a truly Greek city, so they let the Germans do what they wanted. It’s a long but well researched book, and while Mazower isn’t the greatest writer, he still tells the story well, and it’s a pretty compelling book. Unlike a lot of histories, he digs into the culture of the city as well, which brings it to life a bit more than if it had just been a political history. Who doesn’t want to know more about Salonica, am I right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Doll Island (Source Point Press).

Doll Island is a homage to 1980s slasher films, but unfortunately, what the creators (Mira Mortal on the script and D.N.S. on art) fail to realize is that 1980s slasher films, by and large, were not that good. In that sense, Doll Island is a good homage, because it too is not that good. It’s far too short – we never find out what’s going on with the killer and the dolls on Doll Island (a place where dolls are nailed to trees, and can you guess what happens to the human victims?), we never really learn anything about the characters except they’re douchebag teenagers who we wouldn’t mind seeing get killed, and the survivors don’t really do anything noteworthy to escape. The art is serviceable but nothing special, although the killer is a bit creepy. It’s just a dull slasher comic that leaves very little impression. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Absalom: Terminal Diagnosis (Rebellion/2000AD).

Gordon Rennie’s and Tiernen Trevallion’s Absalom series – about a crusty old detective who leads a team devoted to keeping the peace between Britain and the demons of Hell – is a good read – nothing too great, but just solid, entertaining comics. This collection is even more straightforward than the others, as Harry Absalom gathers a group of allies to rescue his grandchildren from their demon captors, and everything goes to shit. Absalom is also about to die from cancer, but he wants to survive long enough to make sure the kids are safe. Rennie doesn’t really do anything surprising here, which is a bit of a shame, as even one death that is supposed to be sad isn’t really because it’s so expected. But it’s still an entertaining story, and Trevallion’s fine-line artwork is superb – he has a weird, Troy Nixey-esque style that works really well when you want to draw demons, so the book looks great. It’s not quite a great send-off, but it’s still pretty good.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Batman: Gotham Knights: Transference (DC).

Gotham Knights was the ongoing after “No Man’s Land” that focused on Batman’s “extended family,” so Devin Grayson gives us stories about Nightwing and Robin and Oracle and Cassandra Cain, and why not – Huntress and Catwoman show up, too. These are solid Batman stories – nothing particularly superb, but solid. I don’t love the four-part Hugo Strange story in which Huge “steals” Batman’s identity, because it had been done better before and the story meanders a bit too much, but the rest of them are short stories – one- or two-issues – and they work quite well. There are two excellent stories about Barbara – one by Grayson and one by Jen van Meter – in which the writers delve into her past a bit and illuminate her focus as a crimefighter and what the means to someone in a wheelchair (I still can’t believe DC “healed” her, which is possibly the dumbest move they’ve made in, what, the past 30 years?). There’s a sad story about the aborted romance between Alfred and Leslie Thompkins, which is quite nice. The stories are drawn by a variety of good artists – Dale Eaglesham was the original artist, but he didn’t last long (I don’t know if it was slowness or he got a better gig), but Paul Ryan, Roger Robinson, and Coy Turnbull do a nice job with their stories. I don’t know – there’s not much to say about these stories. Grayson makes sure to remind us of “No Man’s Land” (another almost unbelievably stupid idea by DC, but fodder for some good stories) throughout, and it’s kind of fun to read about it, because such a weird and traumatic event in the life of a city would leave scars, and the post-“NML” writers paid some lip service to it for a time. Anyway, like I said – solid Batman stories. I like Batman, so I’m perfectly happy with this!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Conan: The Hour of the Dragon (Marvel).

I’m really digging Marvel reprinting their 1970s Conan stuff, and while the giant omnibuses have been great, they’re bears to read (I’ve only read 1.5 of them), so this was a nice morsel of a book, as it contains Roy Thomas’s adaptation of the only full-length Conan novel Robert E. Howard ever wrote. There’s very little reason to call it “Hour of the Dragon,” but it sounds cool (kind of like the terrorist in True Lies), so we’re fine with it. It takes place when Conan is king, and devious elements both within his own country and from the neighboring kingdom conspire to depose him, thanks to the machinations of a wizard who raises a more powerful wizard from the dead. It’s the Hyborian Age, people, these things happen! They think Conan is dead, but you can’t keep a good barbarian down, man! This reads like a “greatest hits” kind of story, as Conan revisits some old haunts and old friends like his pirating buddies, but he also meets a woman named Zenobia, who later becomes his queen. Good for him! It’s a lot of fun, and it’s interesting that Thomas actually changes the way Conan acts from earlier in his life – he’s still the tough-as-nails barbarian, naturally, but kingship has given him a better sense of the bigger picture and a recognition of responsibilities, and it’s neat to see. Gil Kane drew the first part, while John Buscema finished up (the full tale took a little less than two years, but the epilogues that tie into it took another three), and they’re both quite good. I would have actually liked to see the middle part in its published black-and-white form – the modern coloring is fine, but it’s clear it was meant to be in black and white, so the coloring is just a bit odd. That’s a minor complaint, though. If you don’t want to drop a c-note on the Conan omnibuses (believe me, I understand), you can pick this sucker up instead to get a good Roy Thomas 1970s Conan fix!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

2020 Visions (ComicMix).

Back in 1995, Jamie Delano wrote this 12-issue series-of-series for Vertigo, giving us four stories about four different people who are nevertheless connected (the stories really aren’t, but Delano isn’t coy about hiding how they’re connected, but he also doesn’t make a big deal about it), living in 2020. ComicMix decided to release a nice collection now that it’s, you know, 2020, and in his introduction, Delano writes about the foolishness of trying to “predict” the future in speculative fiction, focusing instead on the themes of class warfare, environmental degradation, and other things that are still relevant now, even if things didn’t play out quite the way Delano “predicted.” We get an old man living on the fringes in New York, where disease can get you quarantined even if you think you’re rich and connected enough to avoid it and the rich and connected live in heavily guarded enclaves that look like shopping malls; we get a cross-dressing private detective in a swamped Miami who’s trying to find a missing girl and discovers a horrific business; there’s a punk from Detroit who gets sent out West to secure the land of a rich dude from squatters and “Indians” – meaning drifters and rebels who form into tribes, as well as some actual Indians, and of course he falls in with the rebels, but not for the reasons you might expect and not to everyone’s satisfaction; and we have a young stud who’s farmed out to provide genetic material for women to have babies and what happens when a radical feminist group kidnaps him. Delano is a pretty good writer, so they’re all pretty good, although the first and last are helped by being drawn by Frank Quitely and Steve Pugh, respectively. Warren Pleece and James Romberger round out the artists, and they’re certainly good, but not quite as good as the other two. This is a depressing vision, but in many ways, the world is a depressing place, so it fits right in. The collection is a bit smaller than a standard book and the reprint quality isn’t quite as good as the original (which had more resources behind it), but the transfer is still pretty good. It’s a weird book, certainly, but worth a look both for the way Delano showed the future, what was going on in 1995 (speculative fiction is usually just as good showing the time period it’s from as the time period it’s predicting), and the good art. All of it is pretty neat.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Strange Skies Over East Berlin #1-4 (Boom! Studios).

This is a terrific comic, although I do wish it had been longer – even five issues, but it could have easily gone longer. Jeff Loveness has a cool idea – what if an alien crash-landed in an oppressive dictatorship rather than a wonderful, open democracy like the United States? How far would a government built on paranoia and secrets go to suppress the knowledge? The protagonist, Herring, is a spy deep inside the Stasi – the East German secret police – and he’s tasked by his handler to discover what happened the night the alien came down and what’s going on with it. He manages to bluff his way into the deep, dark prison where they’re holding it, but an inspector who might know he’s a spy also shows up, and the comic is a nice cat-and-mouse game, except with the added bonus of a creepy alien that can make you see visions of things that haunt you. Of course, everyone in East Berlin is haunted, which is why the book works so well. The prison becomes, not surprisingly, a chamber of horrors, and the reason I wished the book had been longer is because Loveness gives us the basics of what haunts them and does a pretty good job making them terrible things, but he skims the surface a bit, so their secrets feel a bit shallow. Readers can imagine how horrible they are, but that’s because we can use our imaginations to make them worse than they are on the page. Maybe that’s the point, but it’s a bit of heavy lifting that Loveness expects from the readers.

Lisandro Estherren’s atmospheric art is excellent, too. He uses the setting well, placing his characters in small circles of light at the end of long, dark tunnels, shrinking them into insignificance. His alien strides through the story confidently, smashing through the metaphorical walls of the characters. He gets the horror many Germans experienced in the aftermath of the war, and manages – along with Loveness, to be sure – to make the two main antagonistic characters more than just evil stereotypes. Patricio Delpeche’s coloring is superb, as well, as it looks painted (I assume it’s digital), giving the city and the prison a shabby, post-war, Soviet-brutalist look, one that crushes the human spirit and therefore allows the alien a lot of material to work with. The art matches Loveness’s haunting story quite well.

As I noted, I wish the book had been a bit longer so we could have dug into the psychoses of the main characters a bit more, but such is life. It’s still a very cool comic.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Trees: Three Fates #1-5 (Image).

I never know what to make of Warren Ellis. He’s arguably one of the five best writers of comics’ modern age, he has written some of the best comics of the past 30 years, he’s always trying new things, yet he’s mercurial, too – he seems to give up on things too quickly, especially in his later days, and even the things he likes he seems to take forever to get out. Such is the case with Trees, which is an interesting geopolitical comic about giant alien rods – “trees” – that landed on Earth some years ago (a decade?), destroyed what was underneath them (they’re really frickin’ huge, so they crush cities, for instance), and did nothing after that. A new world order grew up around them, and Ellis did some fascinating stuff with it. Then, like so many of his comics, the book disappeared (there’s a reason I used to give an annual award called the Fell Award to the most missing comic of that year). Now, he brings it back for a five-issue mini-series that, I hate to break it to you, has almost nothing to do with the trees. It takes place in Siberia, and the town in which it takes place is near some trees, and the tree is a presence in the book (especially at the very beginning), but this is basically a murder mystery. It’s a perfectly cromulent murder mystery, to be sure, and Jason Howard is still a fine artist, so the book looks good, but it’s as if Ellis wanted to write a murder mystery and thought that he has a perfectly good creator-owned IP hanging around, so why bother creating a new one when he can set the book in that one? It’s strange.

Still, this is a good comic. Ellis knows how to write a good story, and he gets under the skin of his characters very well, and the reasons for the murder are interesting. I do hope he does more with Trees, because it’s fun to see him build this world, but it’s also odd. I will buy almost anything Ellis writes, so I’ll keep an eye out for his next mini-series. Maybe it will actually be about, you know, the trees.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Jack Kirby’s Dingbat Love (TwoMorrows Publishing).

For me, one of the tragedies of comics is that after he became “Jack Kirby” with the release of Fantastic Four #1, no one wanted to see Kirby do anything but bombastic superhero-ish titles ever again, even though he was perfectly capable of doing other genres. This book addresses that, with excerpts from his 1970s DC work that wasn’t the Fourth World or other genre fiction, and it’s a really nice addition to anyone’s Kirby Library. Kirby went to DC to create different kinds of comics – magazine-style books about a variety of topics, with a higher price but better advertising and better production values. DC was initially enthusiastic, but eventually they cut everything down, and some books managed an issue while others never saw the light of day. In this book, Mark Evanier and others who knew Kirby write nice essays about the comics, and we also get to see the comics he produced for these various stillborn publications. The romance stuff is fun – the first story is about a man who wants to schtupp the maid because his wife is a successful businesswoman and he can’t understand why she just doesn’t ditch it all and hang around the house like he does. Yes, it’s Kirby writing, which is always a bit dicey, and yes, it’s still the 1970s, but the stories are still charming, even if they’re occasionally tone deaf. Most of them are just pencils, with Kirby’s erasure marks coming through, but a story about a black model is fully inked by Vince Colletta (the pages that are in this book, that is – some of the story is missing, as the original art was sold off), and while Colletta has his detractors (I’m one of them), it’s a beautifully inked story. Mike Royer was commissioned to ink some of the un-inked stories, and it’s interesting to see a slightly modern take on almost 50-year-old pencils. There’s a recreation of what the Kirby “African-American romance comic” would have looked like, with period advertising by modern coloring techniques (the digital coloring doesn’t obscure Kirby’s sharp lines as much as I feared, but flatter colors still probably would have worked better), and finally, several “Dingbats of Danger Street” stories, with some pages missing, again, because they’re in the hands of private collectors, most in Europe. So none of these are long-form comics telling a grand story, just what the editors could bring together, hinting at the possibilities of Kirby at DC in the 1970s, which never came to fruition. It’s too bad – the art is beautiful, without all the bells and whistles we often associate with Kirby’s art (which isn’t a criticism; who doesn’t love the bells and whistles) and it shows that Kirby could easily have done more intimate work if only someone had let him. There’s not a lot of work after 1961 by Kirby that shows his talent for non-superhero work, but this is a very good example of it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

The Dreaming volume 2: Empty Shells (DC/Vertigo).

This isn’t a bad series, but it hasn’t really taken flight yet, despite Simon Spurrier being a good writer and Bilquis Evely doing phenomenal art. In this volume, especially, it reads somewhat like a “greatest hits” series, with Desire doing evil things, Rose Walker showing up, a visit to the Worlds’ End Inn, and emissaries visiting the Dreaming. In the two-parter that begins this volume, we check in with Rose Walker and see what she’s been up to, and we find out why Daniel left the Dreaming. Then we get back to the quest to find Daniel, which takes the party all over the realms, until the weird AI thingy that’s now ruling the Dreaming finally gets some answers out of a comatose Lucien. Then there’s an interesting teaser at the end which promises something new and unusual, so that’s all right. One problem with this series is that Daniel has never been much of a character, so even in the first two-parter, where Spurrier attempts to give him a personality, isn’t very successful, and therefore his fate feels less important to us, because we just don’t know him that well. Morpheus was a drip, but over the course of the series we got to know him, so his fate was very tragic, but Daniel’s decisions in this volume don’t resonate as much. Still, it’s a beautiful comic, and Spurrier seems to have a plan, so I’ll stick with it for a little while, at least. We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Mezo volume 1: Rise of the Tzalekuhl (A Wave Blue World).

I always feel like it’s my duty to mention when I read something by people I’ve met, and so I shall do with Mezo, which is written by Tyler Chin-Tanner, the co-grand poobah of A Wave Blue World. I’ve met Tyler several times, and he’s a swell guy, and while I’ve never met his wife, I’m friends with her on Facebook and I find her fascinating, so there’s that. I mention it simply so you can take any reviews I give people I like a grain of salt. I try to be objective, but we all know that’s impossible.

A Wave Blue World usually publishes quite good comics, and Mezo is no exception. It’s a fantasy series set in a Mesoamerican setting, which automatically makes it interesting, as it’s not the same old “medieval Europe, but with magic” that we see in so much fantasy. Here it’s “Aztecs, but with magic”! I’m only joking a little bit – there’s some magic, there are some weird tree creatures, there’s a past catastrophe that seems to have something to do with another dimension – a lot of the standard fantasy trappings are here, but simply because Chin-Tanner (who wrote the book) shifts it to a different cultural setting, it feels fresher. We get a bunch of connected characters on two different sides – one, an empire run along the lines of the Aztecs, with big pyramids and human sacrifices, and the other, a struggling tribe of rebels who refuse to acknowledge the empire’s suzerainty. The interesting thing about it is that we see, in flashbacks, that in this catastrophe called “The Rupture,” it appears the survivors were all together, and they gradually split into these two camps, so that the main characters have many and interesting connections. There’s plenty of action, some nice mystery, the origins of life (why not?), and very cool art by Josh Zingerman and Val Rodrigues. I can’t really say too much about it, because it’s just the foundation of the story, but it’s very intriguing, and it feels like there are a lot of places it could go. I’m looking forward to more.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Unearth volume 1 (Image).

Cullen Bunn is often a good writer, although occasionally he seems to be mailing it in on some titles. Unearth isn’t the best he can be, but it is pretty good, so that’s not bad. A group of scientists head to Mexico, where some kind of outbreak has caused bodies to morph horrifically. The center of the outbreak is a cave (of course), and the scientists go in with a team of soldiers who might as well have “cannon fodder” stamped on their helmets. Of course, one of the scientists has something hinky going on, and one of the soldiers – we’ll call him “Michael Biehn from The Abyss” goes a little nutty, and there are all sorts of weird life forms down in the cave, and it turns out that there’s a fairly clever reason for all the horror. The volume ends on a scary cliffhanger, too, so we’ll see where it goes from there. Bunn is helped by Kyle Strahm’s fluid, rounded, and weirdly sensual art – the body horror is creepy, true, but Strahm draws some of the monsters in a way that implies sexuality, and when the humans reach the central mystery, there’s definitely a sex vibe going on (which is not unintentional, believe me). It’s a weird horror story that is fairly predictable in its execution but not totally predictable in where we end up. It will be interesting to see where Bunn takes it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Descendent volume 1 (AfterShock).

I only listed “volume 1” here because it’s a quasi-horror comic, so of course it has to have a “The End?” at the end, despite telling pretty much a complete story. You always have to leave room for a sequel!!!

This is an entertaining if absolutely ridiculous comic, in which the kidnapping of a smarmy, right-wing politician’s child reveals … a centuries-old conspiracy stretching back to the Salem witch trials. Because of course it does. A conspiracy theorist named David Corey, his ex-wife lawyer Amanda, and FBI agent Jo Hernandez start digging around, and they discover some pretty wild stuff. It’s all bonkers, but still fun. There are dudes wearing robes and hoods and secret passageways and a weird heel turn by Cotton Mather (seriously!) and a monster at the end of the book (not this guy, though), and Stephanie Phillips tries to take it all seriously, but that only makes it goofier. The writing is fine, and she does a nice job with the way David, Amanda, and Jo talk to each other and build the relationships between them, so it feels less silly in some moments, which is nice. Evgeniy Bornyakov does solid work with the art, as it’s fluid and clean, so we zip around the page easily and are never confused about what’s going on. It’s a slight comic, certainly, but it’s still pretty fun. I’m just wondering if the creators really have a sequel planned, or if the teaser ending is just that. We’ll have to wait to find out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

Outpost Zero volume 3: The Only Living Things (Image).

Outpost Zero has been a strange series, never quite being as epic or “important” as it seemed like it should have been, and it feels incomplete at only 14 issues, and I wonder if it just sold poorly enough that it could run 14 issues but not longer. It’s always been about “the smallest town in the universe,” which never played into the story as much as the tag line made it seem like it would (it’s never really explained what it means – I thought it meant the people were shrunken, like they were in Kandor, because it’s obviously not the smallest town in the universe when a place like Kaycee, Wyoming has 250 or so people living in it*). Anyway, this volume kind of sets up the rest of the story, as we find out what the alien thing is, or at least what it wants, and Alea and Sam rope their parents into exploring the underside of the outpost, where there are all sorts of weird things. But that ends the book – right when the exploration is about to begin – so it does really feel like this was a longer series that got cut short. It’s too bad – Sean McKeever knows how to write interesting characters, especially kids, and the art is nice, but it just feels like an incomplete story. It would have been nice to get the whole thing.

* Kaycee is my go-to “small town,” although it’s not even the smallest town in Wyoming. We just happened to camp there for a night in 1993, and we never saw another living soul, although we heard music from the one bar in town, and we decided it was a town of vampires. I’m sure they’re lovely vampires, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Savage Sword of Conan volume 2: Conan the Gambler (Marvel).

As usual, we get a good collection of Conan stories. I’ve mentioned before that it’s easy to write a Conan story, and the stories in this collection bear this out, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to be good – a writer still has to do something with the material beyond the very basics, which every single Conan story has. So we get three different but similar stories in this collection, and they’re all pretty fun. Meredith Finch gives us a story of a dude who wants revenge on Conan because our favorite barbarian killed his uncle, so he drugs him and … sells him into slavery? Dude, you had an unconscious Conan at your feet – don’t go all Bond villain at that moment! So Conan fights in gladiatorial games that are supposed to showcase fancy lads who will kill him to gain the hand of some random princess, but of course Conan kills everyone, but leaves said princess weeping because he would rather go back and kill the dude than bang her, which, given the amount of play that Conan can easily get, isn’t the worst idea. Luke Ross is a good artist, so it all looks very nice. Then Jim Zub gives us a story in which Conan inherits a dude’s gambling debts (don’t ask) and it turns out that he’s a fantastic gambler, because of course he is (in my Conan story, he will defeat the bad guy by doing differential calculus instinctively, because nothing can stop Conan!), but he still has to fight a monster and slaughter a bunch of people. Zub takes his time a little, and Patrick Zircher is another good artist, so it’s also a good story. Then, Marvel gave Roy Thomas a call and found out he was not only still alive, but he could actually still write a Conan story if they asked! (Thomas is only 79, after all.) He and Alan Davis (only 63!) give us a story about Conan hiring himself out as a guide for a woman who’s heading into the mountains to find a treasure. She has another dude with her, and if you think Conan can’t trust either one of them for completely different reasons, congratulations! you’ve read a Conan story in the past! Thomas knows what he’s doing, of course, and while Davis is a bit of an odd fit for a Conan story (he’s a bit too slick, and I mean that in a good way), it’s nice to see his work. Marvel has been doing some nice work with Conan since they re-acquired the license, and this is just another nice little collection in that library. It’s not quite as good as The Hour of the Dragon (see above), but still.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Scooby Apocalypse volume 6 (DC).

Scooby Apocalypse was never the best of the DC/Hanna-Barbera books, but it was consistently entertaining, and J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, when teamed up, can write stuff like this in their sleep – a bit weird, often humorous, but able to evoke some nice emotions because they create characters that feel human, so they criticize but also care about each other. In this final volume, the gang deals with the fact that Fred is now a nanite-corpse amalgam, plus they have possible new allies to fight the monsters. It’s funny at times, sure, but characters do die, and one of the cool things about DeMatteis and Giffen is that they always make their comics feel as if they’re moving forward toward something – it’s easier with something that isn’t “in continuity,” but even when they were writing Justice League, it felt like things were happening that weren’t just “villain of the month” superhero stuff. They do it a lot here, and it’s kind of nice that DC let them go on something that wasn’t bound by whatever is going on in the “real” DCU (keeping with the age theme, Giffen is 67 and DeMatteis is 66, so who knows how much longer DC will want to get work from them?). Pat Oliffe provides solid pencils, and we get a nice story that wraps up an interesting spin on the Scooby-Doo mythology. Nothing bad about that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Count Crowley: Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter #1-4 (Dark Horse).

Lukas Ketner is a terrific artist, and it’s too bad he doesn’t get more work, because he’d be great on a weird superhero story. Alas, we must deal with him on indie books for now, and while David Dastmalchian’s story isn’t the greatest, it does have some hidden depths. It’s autumn of 1983, and Jerri Butler has been demoted to late-night bad scary movie host (whose name is, not surprisingly, “Count Crowley”) on the local Missouri television network her brother owns, as she has a habit of getting drunk on the air, which doesn’t sit well with anyone. She gets the job because the previous host disappeared under mysterious circumstances, and as the book begins with a dude turning into a werewolf in front of Jerri, “mysterious circumstances” probably doesn’t mean that he got drunk and fell in a ditch. The main plot – what’s up with all the monsters – isn’t all that interesting, but it lets Ketner draw said monsters, and he’s quite good at it. The more interesting story going on is about Jerri and her failure to live up to what others think she should be doing and how that affects her and whether it should or not. It’s trendy to set things in the 1980s now, because all the people writing things these days grew up then, and the lack of cell phones makes it easier to write, say, weird monster stories, but in this case, it’s so Jerri, as a woman, is far more judged than women are even today (and they’re still judged far too much; as my wife noted regarding the Super Bowl halftime show, did everyone who freaked out about Shakira and Jennifer Lopez freak out about Adam Levine last year?), and Dastmalchian has some interesting things to say about that (I don’t want to give too much away, but if you use your imagination, you can probably figure out one plot point fairly easily). Ketner helps in that regard, too, nailing the sleepy Missouri town in which the action unfolds, not in a way that evokes nostalgia for a childhood, but in a way that shows why a smart woman like Jerri would want to leave it and why being back in it (after a brief escape to Cleveland) grinds on her so much. This is, unfortunately, a “to be continued” kind of story (instead of “the end” with a question mark, we get an ellipsis, and I can’t decide which is more annoying), so I hope the creators will be able to do more with it, because while the monsters pay the rent, the story of Jerri is far more interesting.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Once and Future #1-6 (Boom! Studios).

With this book and Die, Kieron Gillen seems to be living in his “zone” right now – magic, nerds, and Britain – and just like Die, Once and Future is a pretty terrific comic. It’s a King Arthur comic, sure, but our protagonist is a dude named Duncan, whose grandmother, it turns out, is some kind of magic-using person who knows far more than you might expect about resurrecting Arthur. She’s trying to stop it, because, as she points out, Arthur was pretty anti-immigrant, and to him, “immigrants” mean “Anglo-Saxons” … or most of the population of England. So that dude with a magic sword and a white nationalist organization behind him might not be great for a large amount of people. So they’re out to stop him, with the help of a historian whom Duncan was on a date with when we meet him … a woman who seems to go along with the craziness very easily, although it’s possible because it’s not like she can deny the craziness is happening. Gillen, who usually takes his time with unfolding plots, is burning through it very quickly in these six issues – we think Arthur might not be resurrected until the end of the arc, but nope, he’s up and running pretty soon; he think the Grail Quest Galahad goes on will be a convoluted thing, but nope, it gets sorted quickly as well; we think that we won’t find out more about the woman who brings Arthur back to life, but nope, by the end of the arc, we know a lot about her, too. I’m not complaining, mind you, I just find it interesting that for someone who can take his time with the actual story when he wants to, Gillen is tearing through this like a dog on fire. It’s fun. Dan Mora is a superb artist, too, so the book is gorgeous (I’m a bit surprised Mora isn’t toiling away in the Big Two Salt Mines yet, but he can stay in indie books as long as he can!), and Tamra Bonvillain is quickly becoming one of the best colorists in comics, so the art is not only crisp and detailed, but vibrant and glowing. Bonvillain does a nice job shifting the hues just slightly when our heroes enter “the other world” that Arthur currently resides in, so it still looks like the real world, just slightly off-kilter.

I don’t know if this is another “Boom! book that gets upgraded to ‘ongoing’ just so it can end after 12 issues,” but these first six are pretty danged good. I’m looking forward to more!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wonder Woman #750 (DC).

Here’s the problem that I have with superheroes in general, but Wonder Woman in particular, especially in these anniversary-type issues: they always have to be symbols. We get all these stories about how they’re symbols of whatever, and while it’s obnoxious when Batman internally narrates about fighting bad guys or the omniscient narrator explaining for the three billionth time about how he can’t stop being Batman or whatever, it doesn’t feel as obnoxious as when every single writer makes Diana into a symbol of womanhood. I just don’t think Diana has it in her – the best Wonder Woman comics are those where she is not held up as a symbol, so why in this anniversary issue does every writer make it like that? It just makes her boring, unfortunately. I like that she tries to solve problems without fighting (I think I’ve made the point before, but it’s fascinating to me that every hero in comics who tries to solve things without fighting is a woman – there has to be a dissertation in there somewhere), but that doesn’t mean she has to talk endlessly about the power of friendship, does it? The first story is a finale of a longer arc from the regular title, and it’s fine – Wonder Woman fights Cheetah, but it’s more about Cheetah showing Diana some things about Hera that Hera would rather keep hidden. It’s fine. There’s a story about some girl who uses the power of flowers to help people, and I assume she’s been around for a while, because she’s buds with Diana (dang, I didn’t realize that until I typed, but now I’m committed to it!). There’s Diana once again telling Ares why he doesn’t win and Ares just not getting it. We get Diana paying Circe to restore Cheetah’s humanity, and that goes about as well as you might expect. There’s a story about teen Diana wanting to leave Themyscira. There’s a charming tale about Diana getting an alarm from home and fighting a Hydra, but that’s not the real reason for the alarm. We get a story about the “Bombshells” Wonder Woman and how ginchy she is. We get Diana fighting Vanessa Kapatelis with the power of love. Finally, we get Wonder Woman thwarting an assassination attempt of FDR at the 1939 World’s Fair. None of the stories are bad, and the creators are strong. Jesus Merino draws Steve Orlando’s finale in the first story, and then we get Gail Simone, Mariko Tamaki, Greg Rucka, Marguerite Bennett, Colleen Doran, Elena Casagrande, Nicole Scott, Phil Hester, Riley Rossmo, Laura Braga, Amancay Nahuelpan, and the final story – the one set in 1939 – feels like a tease for something bigger from Scott Snyder and Bryan Hitch. The stories are beautifully illustrated and generally well done. I just don’t get why we have to hear these characters talk about how much they love each other all the flippin’ time. These stories could have half the words and the specific meaning – that Diana wins because she loves humanity – would come across just as well, without drowning in sentimentality. Still, it’s a pretty nice book.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Lucifer volume 2: The Divine Tragedy (DC/Vertigo).

The second volume of Lucifer is a bit of a mess, which is too bad. Dan Watters has written some good stuff in the past, and this isn’t really bad, just kind of all-over-the-place, with no real through-story. I mean, Lucifer is trying to find an afterlife for Sycorax, whom he brought back to life, and he’s wandering around visiting them, with his son – Caliban – in tow. This gets the angels all hyped up, as they think he’s plotting against them. Meanwhile, Sycorax has three days to live, so all the witches in the world throw a party, and Thessaly shows up, and Mazikeen gets involved with some shady folk, and it all just feels a bit empty. Watters does a pretty good job with Lucifer, the character, as well as Thessaly, although his Sycorax and Caliban aren’t all that interesting. The machinations aren’t bad, and he does a nice job creating this feeling of melancholy around not only the afterlifes but heaven, as well, as if he’s commenting on the lack of faith in today’s world and how it makes the belief systems look a bit shabby. It’s just a herky-jerky kind of story, and it doesn’t seem to matter much in terms of, well, anything. Kelley Jones draws one issue, and it’s as good as you might expect, and the Fiumaras handle most of the art, and I love their art, so if they’re still on the book, I might check out volume 3, but I don’t have a ton of confidence about it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Punisher Kill Krew (Marvel).

I bought this because Juan Ferrerya drew it, and as long as I’m confident it’s going to be reasonably good – and Gerry Duggan wrote this, so I can assume that – I’ll get what Ferreryra is drawing. This turned out to be a lot better than I thought it would be, because Duggan puts Dour Frank on the back burner and allows him to be Slightly Less Dour Frank – he’s fighting to avenge kids whose parents were killed in the recent “War of the Realms,” when monsters rampaged through New York, and that means he gets to fly around the universe and kill monsters, so his usual dreary internal monologue about his “war” is largely absent, or at least put to a slightly more interesting use. The impetus for the mission is one dude whose wife and son were killed, and Duggan manages to make Frank’s final conversation with that dude emotional, but it shows again that Dour Frank can work, but usually in very small doses. I’d rather read about the Frank who steals Thor’s goat, straps it to a mini-van, kidnaps an elf who’s really good at navigation, chains him to the front of the mini-van, and then teams up with Foggy Nelson, the Juggernaut, and the Black Knight, because why the hell not? It’s hilarious at times (I mean, the shark-robot is almost worth the price of admission, Foggy gets covered in bodily fluids more than once, and the brief scene of the Avengers enjoying a snack is terrific), wildly gory, and has no extra flab – Duggan just speeds through it. The art is amazing, of course, because Ferreyra is probably the best artist working in comics today. You might not love the Punisher, as I don’t, but this is a really keen little series.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Road of Bones (IDW).

Rich Douek has written some comics I very much like, including Gutter Magic, so I figured I’d like this, especially as it was drawn by Alex Cormack, who’s part of the reason Sink is such a cool book. It’s a simple story – three men in 1950 escape from a gulag in Siberia in the middle of winter and try to reach a city on the coast, and things … well, they don’t go well, in case you’re wondering. Douek does a good job quickly showing how dehumanizing the conditions in the gulag are, so we can believe why they want to risk the escape, and he also shows that Roman, the mild-mannered one of the bunch, has an odd secret that might not help them when they’re out in the wilderness. They try to take food with them, but they can’t take too much, and one of them tells another that the plan was always to eat the one who died first, so that can’t be good. It unfolds kind of how you think it will, but it’s very gripping, and Cormack is marvelous on the art, especially when he has to draw so much white so he doesn’t get to cut loose too much. When he does, though, it’s impressive. This is a disturbing horror story, made worse by the knowledge that people really were sent to prison camps like this and really did try to escape across the wilderness. Let’s all be thankful we didn’t live in Stalin’s Russia!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Airboy #51 (It’s Alive).

Drew Ford has been doing a nice job with It’s Alive Press, and he’s managed to shepherd a new Airboy comic to the stands, which is nice. I find it interesting that according to the indicia, “Airboy” is © Chuck Dixon, and I wonder when that happened, as we did get that mini-series a few years ago that he wasn’t involved in. But it’s nice that the comic is back, because when Dixon wrote it in the 1980s, it was quite good. Now, a lot of people might not want to get a Dixon comic anymore because he seems more extreme politically than he did back in the day, but I’ve never cared about that, and Dixon is a good comic writer, especially a geopolitical war stuff. He chucks Davy into South Africa here, helping a family fight against corrupt diamond miners, and Dixon generally avoids a “white savior” narrative, which is nice. It can’t be helped completely, but Dixon is smart enough to work around it. It’s a straightforward adventure story, and it’s a fun read. Brett McKee does solid work with the art, but he doesn’t do too much with the backgrounds (to be fair, we’re out on the veldt, so there ain’t a lot around), which makes the book feel a bit more divorced from reality than it should be. But generally, the art is fine. The story is a bit longer than your usual comic, plus there’s a short back-up featuring the Heap, and there are several pin-ups, so while it’s ten bucks, it feels worth it. And you can get that groovy Steranko cover if you can find it! It’s nice that the book is back, but I hope it can stay back for a while – I know they ran a Kickstarter to get this going, so I hope that’s not going to be the case for each issue. Dixon isn’t getting any younger!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Criminal #5-12 (Image).

Criminal is the best thing Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have done together, and it’s not particularly close – I like everything they do, honestly, but Criminal is still several notches above everything else, and this long story about Teeg Lawless in 1988 is a really good reason why. The Lawless family (sigh) has always been the center of the series, even if Brubaker goes off on tangents a lot, and here, we get an epic about how Teeg Lawless died, an event we’ve known about for a while but have never seen. Brubaker begins with a completely different character, a private investigator who tracks down a woman who bangs guys and then robs them blind, and before he can think about it, he’s hooked on her just like every other man (Brubaker, like every writer, has his tics, and one is the woman who’s irresistible to every single man she ever meets). It’s Brubaker’s way to introduce Teeg (she’s hooked up with him with the PI tracks her down), but he does it in a nice, roundabout way. The rest of the story is like that, too – he comes at the main story in different ways, so we get the perspective of the woman, Teeg’s son Ricky, Ricky’s friend Leo, and the PI again. It all leads to a heist, of course, and Brubaker shows his noir roots because he can’t resist a Sterling Hayden-esque moment when the heist is coming to an end. As usual, this is about family, and men raising men (Brubaker can write interesting women, but his men always seem to have more depth), and choices and their consequences, and it’s a gripping, harrowing tale that does not end the way you think it’s going to, even though the road map is fairly clear. Phillips does his usual terrific work on the art, with it occasionally appearing crisper than a lot of his older stuff, and I’m not sure why but I’m not going to question it. Jacob Phillips, who colors this, isn’t quite as ethereal as Elizabeth Breitweiser, who was the colorist on several of the Brubillips books until recently, but he still does nice work shifting the palette around to reflect the different moods of the work.

Brubillips is going on another Criminal hiatus – they’re doing a graphic novel called Pulp next, and then a new series – but that’s okay, because I’m sure they’ll be back. If you’ve never read a Brubillips comic, you really should, and you really should start with Criminal.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Green Lantern: Blackstars #1-3 (DC).

The three-issue mini-series in the middle of Grant “It will always be a magic wishing ring to me, homies!” Morrison’s Green Lantern run is completely unnecessary, as it should have just been a short arc in the main story, but that’s now how the God Of All Comics rolls, yo! At the end of his “first season,” Hal Jordan remade the world so that the Green Lanterns never existed, and now he’s a Blackstar who’s working with Your Friendly Neighborhood Space Vampire (not this one, unfortunately) to conquer the universe. Morrison has fun with the concept, showing us an Earth where the heroes are always grumpy so it’s not surprising that Hal think the peaceful bliss of the Blackstars taking their free will would work, but it’s all a cheat, ultimately, because of course the Blackstars don’t take over the Earth. The reason for what’s going on is fine – typical Morrison hijinks, of course, but I dig typical Morrison hijinks – and everything works out to set up “Season 2” (gawd, don’t get me started on calling comic arcs “seasons”) of GL (which has been shortened from 12 to 8 issues for no official reason – DC did it, not Morrison and Liam Sharp – so who knows what’s going on in Burbank), so why have a separate mini-series? I guess it’s because Sharp didn’t draw it, but guest artists show up in runs all the time, and this would actually be a good use of a guest artist, as the universe is completely different than the one that Sharp was drawing in “Season 1.” Xermanico isn’t quite as good as Sharp is, but he does a nice job with Morrison’s weirdness. It’s just a nice little arc that comes out of the story Morrison was telling in The Green Lantern and leads into the story he’s going to tell in The Green Lantern. So why isn’t it part of that title?

Rating: 7½ Erin Grays:

Clue: Candlestick (IDW).

Dash Shaw’s Clue book is a fun little murder mystery – a bit obvious, although he works hard to make it a bit harder to figure out. This is the first Dash Shaw comic I’ve ever read (I own one other, but haven’t read it yet), and while I don’t love his actual line work, the way he designs the book is quite interesting, as he turns it into weird fever dream, jumping around in time to give us various perspectives on the characters, giving us pages without panels that blend different scenes into one amalgam, and dropping in puzzles that, he says, will give you the murderer if you solve them (I didn’t). He turns Miss Scarlet into an artists’ muse and shows the damaging effects that can have on both the artist and the muse (the obsession men have with attractive women isn’t new, but Shaw finds some interesting twists to it), and he also gives us a nice romance between two opposites that has a profound effect on the case itself. There’s a weird bit of magic at the end that stretches credulity, but otherwise, this is a weird mystery that uses the trappings of the game well to dig into the strange psychology of desire, revenge, and rage. Not bad at all!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Sea of Stars (Image).

At the beginning of this comic, a very recently widowed space trucker and his 9-year-old son are attacked by a giant space whale/squid thing, which eats their space truck and swallows the man. Something weird happens to the kid and he becomes a god. So, yeah, a lot to take in. The man is fine – yes, he was swallowed, but in the grand tradition of Jonah and Pinocchio, he’s not actually eaten – and he starts looking for his kid, who ends up making friends – sort of – with a space monkey and space dolphin. Gil, the dad, is in big trouble, but he figures out a way to stay alive and eventually makes it to a planet, where his son happens to be also. The son (I refuse to call him by his stupid name) keeps becoming more powerful, somewhat to the chagrin of the space monkey and space dolphin, but he’s found by a young woman who believes he’s her culture’s god, so she takes him back to her home planet, where Gil also ends up. Things then, as they do, go pear-shaped, leading to a big cliffhanger ending. It’s pretty good – Jason Aaron and Dennis Hallum, the co-writers, lean into the pathos of Gil being widowed a bit too much, but his fear over his son’s fate is nicely done, as is the excitement the son feels when he discovers that he’s basically indestructible. It’s an exciting book, too, so it zips along nicely. Stephen Green’s art has a bit of Paul Pope in it and a bit of Nathan Fox in it, and it’s quite good, especially all the alien-ish stuff. So yeah: just a solid science fiction comic by two dudes who generally know what they’re doing. I can’t complain!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

**********

I don’t have Airwolf panels this month because I knew this would be late and I didn’t want to make it any later. Sorry about that. I also don’t have much to say on other, non-comics topics. I didn’t mind that Kansas City won the Super Bowl, because I don’t have anything against them, although I’m already sick of the gushing over Pat Mahomes, but I’ve had to deal with two decades of gushing over Tom Brady, so I guess someone else is fine for now. I don’t have anything to say about Kobe Bryant’s death, because I don’t care about celebrities dying even a little bit, and I don’t really love deifying someone who was pretty credibly accused of rape and basically bullied the victim into not testifying, but that’s just me. I can’t even get started on impeachment, because I would be here all day ranting about the Racist, Sexist, Stupid, Bullying, Orange-Faced Baboon in the White House. So I’ll just end with something fun:

Man, I want that macrame cape thing!

Here’s the money aspect:

1 January: $145.70
8 January: $112.69
15 January: $249.89
22 January: $148.96
29 January: $67.64

Total for the month: $724.88

I didn’t do a post in December because I was too busy with Christmas and family stuff, so I never got to my total dollar amount spent on comics in 2019. It was … $7951.42. Dang, that’s a lot. Less than eight grand, though, so that’s something, right? I’m already on pace for $8700, so we’ll see what happens this year!

So have a nice day, everyone, and remember – if you want to buy anything from Amazon, use the link below and we’ll get a little piece of it for the blog. It helps keep the lights on!

21 Comments

  1. tomfitz1

    I don’t understand why Marvel is reprinting Conan/Savage Sword of Conan, didn’t Dark Horse Comics reprint the entire run of both series back when they had the license?

    Trees, I’ve read and liked as well, but I agree that the mystery of what Trees is all about should be addressed one day.

    Criminal, I’ve read and liked as well (so far, I haven’t found a Brubaker/Phillips series not to like), but still, it would be nice to move on to new stuff, eh?

    Green Lantern: Blackstars, I’ve read and liked as well, seeing as how this is an interlude or a bridge from Season 1 to 2. It was a nice respite, to give Liam Sharpe a break to gear up for another 12 issues of Morrison insanity.

  2. “I still can’t believe DC “healed” her, which is possibly the dumbest move they’ve made in, what, the past 30 years?” And that’s a high bar to cross, too. It’s telling that while Didio can’t imagine Dick being interesting if he isn’t Robin, he thinks Babs is more interesting if she’s Batgirl than Oracle.
    The “Hour of the Dragon” theme of Conan maturing is part of the original story. It’s a nice job of characterization by Howard.
    3)There’s a Winged Victory arc in Astro City which comes off to me as a meta-commentary on writers turning characters into symbols — when she learns who’s behind her troubles, WV reflects that the dude used to do things (rob banks, take over small countries etc.) and then he just lost his way and became a symbol of patriarchy.
    4)The funny thing about reading Airboy now (I reread the run a few years ago) is that Dixon got slammed for being an ultra-liberal American hater for having stories that imply America supports military dictators and that doing so is a bad thing.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Fraser: You’re right about it being a high bar, but I think it works, because their other dumb moves don’t involve a real-life thing that people don’t really recover from to the extent that Barbara did. It’s a dumb move that’s far more insulting than, say, bringing Hal Jordan back because a fear monster infected his brain.

      Good point about Winged Victory. Man, it’s been a long time since I read Astro City. So good!

      I don’t remember Dixon getting slammed for that, but I like reading the new collections of Airboy where he talks about getting in arguments with cat yronwode, even though they both respected the other. His 1980s Airboy leans slightly conservative, but I can see why gung-ho Reaganites wouldn’t have liked it.

      1. Dixon IS really conservative, but he’s a thoughtful one. I always feel constrained to point out that he wrote Joker: Devil’s Advocate, a story where the Joker was going to get the death penalty for a crime he didn’t commit…. so Batman decides to clear him. Because it would have been an injustice to execute the Joker for the wrong murder.

        You don’t get much more liberal/SJW than that. I mean, it’s the Joker. Even Commissioner Gordon was all, “Aw, hell, do really have to be all about justice ALL the time…?” Try to imagine how Batman’s actions would play on Gotham’s version of Fox and Friends. Even though he was right and he got the real murderer.

        (Why the D.A. didn’t think to charge the Joker with the dozens of other murders he did do, I forget, but I think it was addressed.)

        1. Greg Burgas

          Devil’s Advocate is a good story that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense. But yeah, that would be interesting to see a reaction to it today.

          Fraser: That’s funny. I only have the collections, so no letter columns, so I missed the ranting!

  3. wilcan

    feel the same about juan ferreyra. anything he draws is on my list; i love his inventive layouts, his brilliant colors, and his memorable figures. i even had him do a commission for me!

    https://twitter.com/juaneferreyra/status/1214235727455817729

    i was not quite feeling Once and Future maybe because it will read better in trade or it is too deep in Arthurian legend for me to be invested. it moves so fast that it’s hard to keep up with all the revelations being uncovered.

    road of bones certainly sounds interesting based on your description. there’s something about a frozen setting that seems to work well with comics (i.e. Whiteout, Winter World). maybe it’s the starkness of all the white. i’ll check it out!

  4. jccalhoun

    I quit reading Trees during the first run when it seemed clear that it wasn’t actually going to be directly dealing with the mystery of the Trees. It looks like I was right. That’s unfortunate because it is an interesting premise.

    I assumed the Blackstar relabeling was mostly to give the regular artist 3 months to catch up but I wouldn’t doubt that having a new number one for both this and the “season 2” of green lantern doesn’t hurt since that generally gives series a sales bump.

    It is interesting to see Devin Grayson’s’ name pop up since I haven’t heard it for a while. She was a Batman-family mainstay for a while. I wonder if it was her choice to step back or if she was forced out?

    1. Greg Burgas

      I’ve heard only a little about Grayson, and I don’t get the feeling her leaving DC was exactly amicable, but I could be wrong. There’s a lot of reading between the lines. She’s doing something for them now (one of those YA graphic novels, is that it?), so I guess if something bad did happen, it’s water under the bridge now.

  5. I’m always so torn about Ellis. He wrote some comics that I still totally love–especially Planetary and Nextwave–so I continue to read his stuff, but I haven’t particularly enjoyed much of it since 2007 or so, even stuff like Ignition City that I really should have loved. I got pretty tired of the fairly interchangeable ranting misanthropes he managed to put into nearly everything, whether it was Spider Jerusalem, Dirk Anger, Norman Osborn or Perry White.

  6. papercut fun

    Your comments on The Dreaming I think perfectly sum up what I’d been feeling. Some very interesting stuff but not really well developed characters. Feels a bit like some old favourites (Daniel, Rose, etc) are coming back for storylines that we never really needed to see. But the quality is definitely “more-than-decent-boarding-on-quite-good”.

    I did read someplace that G. Willow Wilson was to take over the series, but then it was announced that instead it’s coming to an abrupt end(?). Not sure if this is in fact the case…but maybe they’re planning a relaunch with her attached.

    1. I found the first Dreaming trade very so-so, but tbh, I haven’t liked any of this current batch of Sandman universe spin-offs so far. The new Lucifer vol. 1 was particularly terrible, imo.

      I haven’t read Books of Magic, though.

      I did find it amusing that Spurrier managed to dig up YET ANOTHER old DC horror comic host to be the baddie in Dreaming vol. 1, though.

    2. Greg Burgas

      I saw that too, about Wilson. DC has that whole generation thing a-coming, so it seems like a lot of their plans are in flux. We shall see.

      Sam: It’s frustrating, because the talent is quite good, but they haven’t really taken off. I want to like DC’s weirder output, but this new Sandman stuff is, you’re right, not really as good as it should be given the creators. I just got volume 2 of Books of Magic, so we’ll see.

  7. BB

    Greg, you’re actually on track for $7,683 in 2020 due to there being 5 Wednesdays in Jan. and 53 in the year. You, sir, have a marathoner’s pace!

    I love Spurrier’s Boom stuff – The Spire and Coda – and am interested in reading more of his work.

    1. Greg Burgas

      BB: Yeah, okay, it’s a bit smaller because of the five weeks in January. Still too much! 🙂

      I’ve liked most of what Spurrier has written, but there’s just something missing from The Dreaming, unfortunately.

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