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

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

‘Why?’ he said. ‘Why?’ He was speaking to Simon. ‘Why must we behave as though only extremity gives meaning to our lives?’

‘Because, often, only extremity does.’ (A.S. Byatt, from The Game)

DCeased #1 (DC).

I can just imagine the pitch meeting for this sucker:

Dan DiDio: Hey, [Writer A], good to see you. Listen, we have an idea and we think you’d be the perfect person to hit it out of the park. So Darkseid tries to add a piece of Death to the Anti-Life Equation, but instead he changes it so it turns everyone who comes in contact with it a mindless eating and killing machine. Superheroes are infected! It’s gonna be off the chizzain!

Writer A: Sounds a lot like Marvel Zombies.

Danny D: What? Why you —

[Writer A is defenestrated. Luckily, Didio’s office is on the first floor and he doesn’t have any glass in the windows. Hard times at DC, yo!]

Dan DiDio: Hey, [Writer B], what’s up? Listen, we have this cool project for you. The Justice League kick Darkseid off the Earth, but he’s kidnapped Cyborg, who has … half of the Anti-Life Equation inside him? Whatever, we’ll workshop it. In order to get the Equation out of him, Darkseid has to grab Death – you know, that skiing dude – but it goes horribly wrong and turns Darkseid into a mindless, speechless, eating and killing machine. What do you think so far?

Writer B: Sounds a lot like —

Danny D: NO IT DOESN’T!!!!!

[Writer B is defenestrated. Luckily, still no window, still on the ground floor, and Writer B lands in a nice hedge right next to Writer A.]

Dan DiDio: Hey, [Writer C], listen, we’re just fucking doing Marvel Zombies. Are you in or not?

Tom Taylor: Um, I was just walking by trying to find a machine that dispenses Bundaberg. But sure, I’ll do it. Can I rip off Grant Morrison’s idea that Batman has files on everyone and pretend that the Justice League has never heard of it before?

Danny D: What? You’ll do it? Well, shit, yeah you can do that thing you just mentioned that I was definitely listening to! You can even have Nightwing bite Batman’s neck if you want! Go fucking nuts, dude!

Tom Taylor: Thanks, Dan. Now for the important stuff: Do. You. Have. Any. Vegemite?

So yeah, if you were wondering if this was Marvel Zombies (which, to be fair, I didn’t read), of course it fucking is. Still, nice art from Trevor Hairsine and James Harren. Taylor is a pretty good writer, so I’m sure this will be competent. But, I mean, it’s Marvel Zombies. DC should have just called it “DC Zombies” and be done with it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Okay, Rick Grimes

Savage Avengers #1 (Marvel).

Savage Avengers is obviously stupid, but it’s stupid in the right ridiculous way (Gerry Duggan wrote a terrific run on Deadpool, so he knows how to write good stupid), so it’s not quite as awful as it could have been? I mean, I know it’s not much of an endorsement, but it’s what I got! I mean, it begins in the Savage Land with a weird cult sacrificing the “best” people in the world – in this case a top-notch opera singer – and chucking their bodies into a giant, blood-filled bowl to “summon Jhoatun Lun from his icy domain.” You know, like you do. Then Conan, who is wandering around said Savage Land (like you do) killing ninjas,* meets Wolverine, and those two fight for interminable pages until they both fall off a cliff and into a city. They come to an understanding and part (not before Logan tells Conan that he likes Pabst, which, come on, Logan – you never really get drunk because of your healing factor, so can’t you drink something stronger and better than fucking Pabst? don’t be like Dennis Hopper, man!) as they are looking for different things – Conan wants jewels, because he’s charmingly simple, while Logan wants to kill ninjas, because he’s charmingly psychotic (well, he’s actually there to rescue Doctor Voodoo, but he’s gonna kill himself some ninjas along the way, don’t you fret about that). Then Doctor Voodoo shows up as a sacrifice, and in a flashback, we get a nice glimpse of good ol’ Jhoatun Lun, who could use a serious mani-pedi and probably some nice caps on his teeth. Oh, and the cult plans to lure the Punisher to the Savage Land because they’re … stupid? I mean, yes, they want to sacrifice great warriors, but if they know about the Punisher, they should know it’s not going to end well for them, right? Sigh. Stupid cultists!

I mean, it’s fine. It’s idiotic, but that’s to be expected. The plot is barely there – this thing costs $4.99 and is 32 pages long, but 11 of those pages are Conan fighting either ninjas or Wolverine, and the rest is the most basic of things – we see the cult, Doctor Voodoo gets kidnapped from Madripoor, we get a flashback, and the Punisher finds what the stupid cultists want him to find, and yes, I get that this is the way comics work these days, but Jeebus, I just read a six-issue Iron Fist story that was, yes, written by Chris “Never Use One Word When Twelve Will Do” Claremont, and yes, the word “unto” was used far too much, but man, there was a ton of plot in that sucker, and it actually took me longer than three goddamned minutes to read. And get off my damned lawn. I’m just saying that Duggan could have really packed this first issue and made it enticing, but, I mean, it’s just a big dumb comic. It looks great (Deodato’s style might not be for everyone, but he’s shifted so well out of “’90s Image guy” to this weird multimedia guy we have now, and it’s impressive), and it’s goofy, which I’m sure Duggan isn’t really going for but maybe is just a little, but, man, it’s slight. It’s almost as if it’s easier to read trades!

* Speaking of old Iron Fist stories, remember when comics made sure you knew a little bit of what was going on? I mean, yes, if you read them all in a row, the endless recapping gets annoying, but this is a brand new story, and Marvel expects us to know why Conan is wandering around the Savage Land and not in his own time? I know he was fighting with the Avengers in some big dumb crossover (that Realms thing?), but you’re telling me that the 11 pages of Conan fighting ninjas and then Conan fighting Wolverine was so important they couldn’t have cut one page from it to give us a fancy recap page? Conan seems remarkably together for being transported thousands of years into his future, but new readers will be mystified!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You’d think so, wouldn’t you, Conan?

DC’s Year of the Villain Special #1 (DC).

Year of the Villain is one of these teaser books that DC likes to do (does Marvel do them, too? it seems like it’s always DC) about their big events coming up, where we get vignettes about all the weird stuff we can expect from the event, and it’s a quarter, so I bought it. It’s as dumb as you expect, but it’s only 25 cents, so whatevs. First, we find out that Lex Luthor has decided to give a bunch of villains all his money, and then he blows himself up. Of course, he’s not dead, and at the end, some poorly-dressed weird woman is regrowing him. I hope he becomes a really powerful super-villain with all these powers, because we sure don’t have enough of those! Then we catch up with Merlyn ranting to Green Arrow and Batgirl about some important stuff, and then Batgirl gets a job offer from a mysterious stranger who claims he’s a good dude, and then the Justice League is at the edge of space trying to stop the end of the universe? Maybe? I mean, I get there’s some void killing the universe, but is it able to be stopped, and if it isn’t, doesn’t that just mean that the universe is dying, like it always has been? Is it dying fast enough to affect Earth in the next million years? I don’t know – in the DC and Marvel universes, the actual universe seems to be about as big as Duluth. Or maybe Calgary. Or Yemen. Not very big, in other words. And there are some other teaser images, including Gorilla Grodd (I guess?) with a baby in a carrier strapped to his chest. IF DC WANTS TO PUBLISH A BOOK ABOUT THE ADVENTURES OF GORILLA GRODD AND HIS PRECOCIOUS ADOPTED BABY (AS THE BABY IS HUMAN, YOU UNDERSTAND), I WOULD BE VERY MUCH ON BOARD WITH THAT. Anyway, that’s about it. All the art is decent – it’s Jim Cheung, Alex Maleev, and Francis Manapul doing this – but this is a sprawling event, so I imagine it will have many cooks. We’ll see. It doesn’t thrill me, but I’m a jaded, bitter old man … WHO JUST WANTS TO SEE GRODD TRYING TO DOMINATE THE WORLD WHILE CHANGING DIAPERS!!!!!

Rating: I mean, it’s gotta be “Incomplete,” right? It’s not like this is supposed to be a “real” comic, after all. DC could have done a FCBD offering of this exact same thing, but they wanted those sweet, sweet quarters!!!!

One totally Airwolf panel:

I’d take him up on that

Bone Parish volume 1 (Boom! Studios).

Like Hot Lunch Special, which I reviewed last month, Bone Parish is a fairly typical gangster story with an interesting twist to make it a bit more clever. In Hot Lunch Special, it was changing the ethnicities of the various parties. In Bone Parish, it’s making the product the gang sells something odd – powder made from corpses which allow you to experience what that person’s life was like as long as the drug’s effects last. Crucially, it also gives you their abilities. The family that runs the drug trade (in New Orleans, of course) is beset by slick gangsters from New York who want to buy them out, lock, stock, and barrel, while they’re also involved with Hispanic gangsters who are up to no good. There are betrayals, brutal deaths, family secrets, and all that good stuff. I don’t mean to be dismissive, because Cullen Bunn is a fine writer and he does good work here, while Jonas Scharf’s art is very solid, but this is just the introduction, really (it’s four issues), and while a lot happens, it still feels like setting things up, because it’s clear that some of the deaths will cause nothing but problems down the line. The family survives the first incursion into their business, and obviously we need to find out exactly how they’re cooking this stuff up, but it still feels like it’s just a tease. Boom!’s penchant for releasing four-issue trades is annoying, especially when Bunn is going for a sprawling epic (I think the series is only running 12 issues, but it’s more the feel of it than the actual length). So I’ll get the next trade, but that’s about all I can say about this one.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Like, some sort of dish with Brussels sprouts? ‘Cause that certainly qualifies!

Killmonger: By Any Means (Marvel).

Calling this volume “By Any Means” is a bit dicey, because it implies a battle against racism, but it’s not anything like that. It’s just an odd choice, but whatever.

It’s difficult to really love this comic, because comic book characters – especially ones at DC or Marvel – lead such plot-based lives that going back in time and filling in blanks in their story doesn’t really feel consequential, because for these characters, all that matters is the endgame of their plots. So we know what happens to Erik Killmonger, therefore a series explaining how he reached that point doesn’t really matter. Killmonger isn’t a real person, obviously, but like a lot of DC and Marvel characters, he’s not even a real character – he’s a plot driver, so adding some nuance to his portrayal is fine, I guess, but ultimately pointless. Bryan Hill writes an entertaining story, which is fine – Killmonger falls in with a mercenary group working for Wilson Fisk because he tries to kill Ulysses Klaw and the Kingpin wants to keep Klaw alive. They become impressed with him, so they let him live, but then the Kingpin sends Bullseye after them, figuring that he only needs one killing machine, so whoever survives will be it. Of course Bullseye wins, but that’s not the point. The point is that there’s a woman, and if you think she doesn’t betray Killmonger, you obviously haven’t been reading enough fiction. So a lot people die and Killmonger realizes he … has to pretend to like T’Challa? I guess. Anyway, it is entertaining, but of course the real reason to get it is because Juan Ferreyra draws it, and as long as he keeps drawing stuff, I will keep buying it. He’s phenomenal on this book, as always – his fight scenes are always choreographed magnificently, his people look real even though they’re impossibly attractive, and he uses a lot of interesting page layouts to keep the book feeling fresh. He and his father color the book, and again, it’s always nice to see the colors, because even when the scene is dark, he knows how to light it to make sure we see everything, and his actual choices for which color to use are always interesting. When I’m writing X-Men, I will tell Marvel to pay Ferreyra any amount of money, because even if my writing sucks (I mean, I’m going to kill Gambit in horrible fashion in every issue – don’t worry, it’ll be in the background in one panel, as a running gag – so you can decide if that’s something you’d like to read), the book will still look amazing. Call me, Joey Q!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ (mostly for the art)

One totally Airwolf panel:

Man, that’s going to leave a mark

Newbury & Hobbes volume 1: The Undying (Titan).

Titan has been publishing the “Rivers of London” series for a few years, and that began life as a series of novels before moving to comic book form, so the publisher decided to do the same thing with Newbury & Hobbes, which began in novels and is now a comic book series. It works fairly well, frankly, because we don’t need an “origin” story – there’s Sir Maurice Newbury and Miss Veronica Hobbes, they live in a slightly more steampunk Victorian England than actually existed, and they battle villains. Easy-peasy!

That doesn’t make this excellent, of course, but it’s a perfectly fine crime story. Newbury and Hobbes have good chemistry, neither is the dominant partner (although Hobbes does admit it’s easier being a man during this time, but she works around that well), and they each have good skills for their job. It’s unclear exactly what their relationship is, but I have no idea if it’s been spelled out in the novels, either. They’re fighting a creepy villain whom they thought was dead, but of course he wasn’t quite so, and even this series leaves his fate unknown (although we’re certainly supposed to believe that he’s dead). It’s a nice adventure, with chases through the sewers, battles at the top of Big Ben, weird laboratories, and a fairly sinister Queen Victoria. You know, like a lot of steampunk adventures. But I enjoy steampunk adventures (to a degree), and Dan Boultwood is a pretty good artist, so this is enjoyable. But that’s about it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

But … aren’t women just decorative?

Punchline volume 1: Blood Sisters (Antarctic Press).

I’m friends with writer Bill Williams on Facebook, so I had seen some pages of this before the trade came out, and I was interested in it not only because it sounded like a neat take on superheroes but also because Matthew Weldon’s art looked really nice. So I was happy that it lives up to the hype inside my head. Weldon is very good not only at the fighting scenes, which any self-respecting superhero comic has to have, but in the way he gets the relationship between the two main characters down. Mel, the current superhero, is a fairly cynical older woman (she’s very old, it turns out, but she ages very slowly, so she’s just a regular adult woman), and Weldon does a nice job with her not getting too high or too low, keeping her cool, and only letting the mask slip a tiny bit when she’s hanging out with her friends, and even then she’s still pretty guarded. Meanwhile, her protégé, Jessie, to whom she bequeaths her powers (which is something you can do in this world), is a teenager, and Weldon draws her as a bit more open (despite still being guarded, thanks to her less-than-stellar home life) and definitely more excited about being a superhero. Even in the way he draws them together, you get the sense that while Jessie is certainly more powerful than Mel (who has no powers anymore), Mel is still more dangerous, and Weldon does a good job drawing them in that manner. His designs are good, too – not only Jessie’s (there on the cover), but Beetle Girl’s, the ice giants, the goat guy, and Sawtooth the humanoid shark are all pretty cool. Williams does a nice job with the story, creating a superhero universe (yes, another one) that feels a bit different, as the idea that people can pass on their powers is a good one. It allows for the mentor-protégé relationship we see, which is always interesting, and like any good superhero writer, Williams actually thinks about what it means to have powers, so Mel is far more dangerous than you might think because she never solely relied on her powers. She learned a lot of other things, too, and she tries to tell Jessie that it might be a good idea to do so, as well. Williams also gets that Mel might be sad about giving up her powers (it wasn’t exactly her choice), and while that’s a staple of superhero stories as well, with corporate creations we know it’s temporary, but here we don’t, so Mel explaining what her life is like now that she’s powerless (to a degree) hits a bit harder. I don’t want to give too much away, but Williams does a nice job creating a bond between the two characters and then goes about testing that bond, and for such a relatively short collection (it’s five issues), that’s pretty impressive.

This book probably won’t change the universe (give it time!), but if you’re burned out by DC and Marvel superheroes but still dig the concept, it’s a good alternative to check out. I hope it runs for a while, because there’s a lot of interesting potential here.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

See, at least he knows you can’t just gulp your food down

The Wrong Earth volume 1 (Ahoy Comics).

Speaking of interesting takes on superhero comics, The Wrong Earth takes a fairly common superhero convention – a superhero gets shunted to a different dimension that’s slightly off-kilter from his or her own – and puts a fun spin on it. Dragonflyman (who’s basically the Batman of the 1960s television show) goes through a magic mirror to the world of Dragonfly (who’s basically Frank Miller’s Batman) just as the opposite also happens. So both the cheery, fun Batman and the grim, gritty Batman are trapped in the wrong world, and very quickly it becomes clear they’re probably stuck that way for a while. It’s well done – neither of them is all that nonplussed about the situation, as they’re, you know, superheroes, but Tom Peyer does throw us a for a few loops – “Robin” in Dragonfly’s world is, of course, dead, but in Dragonflyman’s world he’s not, which messes with both heroes’ minds for a while. The main villain in both worlds is the same dude, and of course he reflects the reality of the worlds, and he also goes through the mirror (it seems to belong to him), with tragic and occasionally hilarious consequences. Dragonflyman finds out he doesn’t have a great relationship with the police, and he trusts people far too much, but he begins to have a positive impact on such a dreary world. Meanwhile, Dragonfly discovers that his form of brutality doesn’t play well on the new earth, but people trust him, and he uses that to become a greater hero (in the eyes of the public) than his counterpart. He gets a girlfriend who’s as diabolical as he is, one who also knows how to fool the public, and he gets his sidekick back, but Stinger (that’s the kid) isn’t quite sure what to make of this “new” superhero. And, of course, there’s a big plot by another big baddie. Because of course there is.

Tom Peyer writes this with a lot of verve and humor and darkness, which is what it needs – it has to be somewhat light, but the dark parts have to be convincing, too, and Peyer does well with it. I think I know why Peyer doesn’t get more work, but I’m not sure and it would be betraying a confidence if I told, but it’s too bad, because he’s always been an interesting writer. Jamal Igle is a fine artist, too, so it’s nice to see him drawing a cool superhero book. This is the first trade from Ahoy Comics, and I hope they’re doing well, because this is a good one out of the gate. So here’s hoping for their success!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Uh, yeah

The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (Simon & Schuster).

Over ten years ago, on a different blog far, far away, Greg Hatcher wrote about this book. I read his blurb and thought, “That sounds neat.” So I purchased it not long afterward, and it has been on my shelf ever since. I have mentioned before that I’m not a very fast reader, and during the day, I like to read comics, so I tend to read prose only at night. I love buying books, though, so my pile of unread books grew over the years. I would buy 5-6 of them, start reading one, but before I even finished that one, I’d buy 5-6 more books, finish the one I was reading, and start reading a book from the second pile I bought. This led to several books languishing on the shelf, not because I didn’t want to read them, but because I’m slow and I kept getting new ones. Finally, some years ago, I decided to start reading my books in alphabetical order by author. That way I wouldn’t miss any of them. When I bought this book, I suppose I was already past “M” in the alphabet, because it’s taken me this long to finish the alphabet and get back around to “M” (I think this is the third time through the alphabet for me, and I’ve tried to stop buying as many books, but I still do). So now I’ve read it!

I can’t imagine anyone who reads this blog not enjoying this book. I’m totally serious. It’s so up the alley of the kind of people who read comics/pulp/noir/adventure/old-fashioned yarns, which I imagine is almost everyone who stops by here. Malmont sets the book in 1937, during the height of the pulp era, and spins a story that’s extremely pulpy, except for the fact that it stars actual people (it’s totally fiction, though, but it stars actual people). The two main characters are Walter Gibson and Lester Dent, the writers of The Shadow and Doc Savage stories, respectively (neither are the sole creators of the characters, but they’re the ones who basically made them what they are, in the Claremont-on-X-Men sense), but L. Ron Hubbard is also a major supporting character, as he was a younger pulp writer during the 1930s. Robert Heinlein also shows up, and the book features Howard Lovecraft’s death early on, which becomes a plot point as the story goes on. Gibson and Dent get caught up in a plot hatched by Chinese revolutionaries, and Malmont incorporates events from Chinese history into the plot pretty well. He does a smart thing by keeping it on this side of supernatural, but some things could be viewed as such if you’re so inclined. It’s a neat balancing act. Malmont moves the plot along quickly, slowly integrating what looks like an ancient Chinese myth into the plot and linking the pulp story Gibson tells to Hubbard at the beginning – the one with a very tough locked-door murder in it – to the plot at the end, which is some nice symmetry. It’s a very fun book, despite the seriousness of the plot, because Malmont mimics the pulps so well, but he does manage to make all the characters three-dimensional. That’s nice.

There’s a sequel to this book, but it’s not like this ends on a cliffhanger or anything – I guess the second book just stars some of the same characters but concerns a completely different plot. This book stands on its own, and it’s well worth your time. I know nobody respects my taste, but come on – Greg Hatcher’s taste is impeccable!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

Atomic Robo and the Dawn of a New Era #1-5 (IDW).

Atomic Robo is always one of the best comics you can find, so it’s a little odd that this one happens to be the “worst” mini-series yet, simply because Brian Clevinger usually keeps building more awesome every time out. That doesn’t mean this is a bad mini-series, just that it’s very much a table-setting series, so not much happens but Clevinger throws a lot of stuff in there that will pay off later. He usually doesn’t do this all at once, which is why it’s kind of a strange mini-series. Basically, Robo and his Adventure Scientists have a new headquarters (due to several factors from past series), and they’re all getting moved in. This means we also get some interns, who act as our point-of-view characters for a good portion of the story – they don’t know what’s going on, but they like to sneak around and find out, so we can find out, too! We do get the return of a cast member thought long dead (and if you’re a regular reader, you can probably guess who that is), an expedition by one of the group that turns a bit weird, and Robo getting “caught” with the A.I. that almost destroyed humanity, as Robo claims all the A.I. needs is some good nurturing so it doesn’t turn megalomaniacal. That doesn’t work out too well, of course, because the group finds out about it. So there’s a lot being set up, and of course it’s very funny, and of course Scott Wegener’s art is terrific, but when you reach the end, there’s a feeling of dissatisfaction because … not enough things got punched, maybe? Still, it remains a great comic, and while this isn’t the best example of the series, as part of the larger whole, it works perfectly fine.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I’ve never tied a bowtie in my life, because I agree with this sentiment!

Beyonders volume 1: The Mapmakers (AfterShock).

Paul Jenkins gives us a somewhat fun adventure in which a teenager named Jake believes that every conspiracy that ever existed is real, and because this is fiction, he’s right. People are out to kill him because of this, while other people want to help him because they believe there’s a treasure, the clues to which are scattered throughout the world and across history. If you think this sounds a bit familiar, well, conspiracies are a tempting lure to any fiction writer, but while the plots aren’t all that similar, I just kept thinking of The Illuminatus Trilogy! while I was reading this, and that book is far superior to this comic (which is not surprising, as the book is very long and delves into things a lot more deeply than Jenkins does). It’s not that this is a bad comic – it’s entertaining and fun, and while the twist at the end is not surprising at all, Jenkins does a pretty good job with it. Wesley St. Claire’s art is fine, too. Jenkins gives us a “greatest-hits” kind of conspiracy, with Da Vinci, crop circles, Rennes-le-Chateau, Croatoan, and some other big guns showing up, but the problem with the book is that it’s not weird enough. Conspiracy theories are weird, and they get weirder the further in you go. Jenkins, possibly because of time, simply skims the surface of conspiracies (Elgar shows up a few times, and I would love to read more about him inside this web), so it’s just an adventure story with some conspiratorial elements thrown in. That’s fine, but it’s just a bit too shallow to make a really good impression. The Rennes-le-Chateau thing, for instance, is almost all fiction, but the fiction is so wondrously bizarre that you want it to be real, and Jenkins, no matter what conspiracy he’s delving into, doesn’t go far enough. Again, I get the constraints of a five-issue series (with some hints toward more, but this is pretty much a complete story), but that just makes it frustrating.

Oh well. Jenkins is often a frustrating writer, and he doesn’t do anything to allay that reputation!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I mean, duh

Fish Eye (Scout Comics).

Massimo Rosi uses The Truman Show (it’s specifically referenced by one of the characters) to create this comic, as it’s basically a violent and bloody version of that movie. There’s a dude named Travis who has lived his entire life on-screen but doesn’t know it, and Rosi makes some nice twists to the concept. First, Travis is a police officer, so there’s the potential for a lot of violence anyway. Second, the ratings are down, so the producer, Ethan Wood, decides to kill Travis and end the show. He brings in a bunch of felons to whom he’s promised early release and sets them loose, creating a story in which Travis becomes a target, and then all hell breaks loose. It is, of course, a ratings bonanza, but for Travis, it’s just his life, and it’s coming apart. That’s it, basically, as Rosi just turns these violent people loose and artist Stefano Cardoselli has a fun time drawing lots of death. Travis begins to figure out that something weird is going on (some of the people he’s about to kill try to break character, but then he kills them), and of course he has to confront Wood, but I won’t say how that turns out. This is black as pitch, of course, but it’s fairly intense, if a bit predictable. Not a bad way to spend a little time reading comics.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Just a small taste of the mayhem within!

Pearl volume 1 (DC).

I like Brian Michael Bendis when he’s not writing superheroes, but this far into his career, I have a problem with him: As much as he writes interesting characters and pretty good dialogue, it’s kind of the same interesting characters and pretty good dialogue, and once you’ve read it a few times, why should you read it again? I mean, here we have Pearl, a tattoo artist who owes the yakuza for her shop, and then one night she happens to save the life of a dude who thought one of her tattoos was cool and it turns out she has mad gun skills so the yakuza boss wants her to kill people for him except she really doesn’t want to. I mean, it’s not a bad hook, and Bendis drops an interesting twist at the end that should lead to at least another decent arc, but there’s just a sameness to Bendis’s stuff these days, and it’s the sameness of familiarity. If this were the first Bendis comic I’ve ever read, I might like it better, but it’s not, so I don’t. A lot of writers can’t write different characters in different situations, but they make up for it in different ways, like having great plots. Bendis doesn’t really do that – his plots are fine, but that’s about it, so the character tics become especially noticeable. I don’t know – this is fine, and while I don’t love Michael Gaydos’s art, it’s also fine. I’m kind of on the fence about getting a second volume (if it even comes out), but we’ll see.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Men is dum

Fairlady #2 (Image).

I’m liking Fairlady after two issues, as they’ve each been a single-issue story, which doesn’t leave much space for a really good mystery (they can’t be too complicated, of course), but gives us a nice reading experience without worrying about a cliffhanger or anything. What Brian Schirmer is doing is smart – each issue begins and ends, so if you’re interested in plot, you get that, but Schirmer has done a good job building this world slowly, and in the first two issues, Jenner gives us a tour of the weird place where everyone lives (why is there a giant dead robot lying on the ground?) and the people therein, which helps make this world more interesting but doesn’t feel like Schirmer is forcing it. We find out a bit about the constabulatory, we find out more about the Fairmen and he gives us a bit of why they really don’t like Jenner, as a Fairlady, and we get a bit about the economy of the Feld, which is (shockingly!) not unlike every other economy! The case is intriguing, but the way Schirmer brings things up within the context of the case is pretty keen. Claudia Balboni does typical nice work, and she does some nice stuff in a few flashback panels. It’s a nice-looking comic.

Anyway, if we keep getting these interesting single-issue stories, this will be a neat series. Let’s hope!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s a fair point

Bitter Root volume 1: Family Business (Image).

Sigh. I’m tired of racism. You might think this is fairly obvious, and I do mean it both the obvious way and in another way. The first way is why a comic like Bitter Root exists, because far too many people haven’t heard of the Harlem Renaissance or the Tulsa riot or even Zora Neale Hurston. It’s the story of a black family in Harlem that fights against monsters, but it turns out the monsters are just warped people, and they’re trying to save them. They’re opposed by a man whose life was ruined in Tulsa a few years earlier (the book is set in 1924; the Tulsa riot was in 1921) and simply wants to destroy the world. So it’s basically a good-versus-evil thing, except every main character, unlike a lot of fiction, is black, which is refreshing. We can see that Doctor Sylvester is a victim with the means to lash out at his oppressors, so he does so in the most destructive way possible. There’s nothing wrong with the story, and Sanford Greene’s art is always a delight to see. It’s not a brilliant comic, but it’s decent enough.

What I mean in the non-obvious way bothers me, because it makes me understand, although not sympathize, with people who voted for Trump. At one point in the story, one character is surprised that a black person turned into a monster because “it just isn’t in us.” Now, the people become monsters when their souls are corrupted by evil, and the character tells him that the black person turned into a different kind of monster because there are plenty of ways for a soul to become corrupted. It’s very clear, however, that the primary monsters become so because they’re racist. The implication being, of course, that black people can’t turn into those kinds of monsters because they’re not racist. This has always bugged me, and it makes me understand why white people voted for Trump. Nobody likes being called a racist, of course, and the best way to make sure you’re not is, well, don’t be racist. The biggest difference between white people and black people on the subject of racism, it seems to me, is that white people see racism as an individual problem – as in, that person is racist – while for black people, it’s an institutional problem. I get that, I do – I don’t get to speak about the lack of institutional racism because I’ve never experienced it, so it’s not for me to deny it exists – but for many white people, it’s such a big leap from “That guy said something racist” to “The system is rigged in ways that I can’t see because it’s never been that way for me.” It’s a HUGE leap, I would argue, and for many white people, they’re just now realizing that they have to make that leap. I hate to say that black people should be more patient with white people because of the horrors they’ve had to endure for centuries, but it’s true – you just can’t say institutional racism exists and have everyone believe you right off the bat. It sucks, but that’s the way it is. A lot of Trump voters, I would wager, are sick of hearing about it because they can’t see it. That doesn’t excuse them, but it does help me, at least, understand them. But what writers David Walker and Chuck Brown are doing here is different, and worse. They’re not claiming that the system is racist, they’re claiming that individual black people can’t be racist. But of course they can. Anyone can be prejudiced against anyone else based on anything. There have been plenty of black people who claim that they are better than white people simply because they’re black. Robert Mugabe (who’s somehow still alive!!!!!) ran a racist regime in Zimbabwe for years. You can say that the white people had colonized the area and deserved what they got, but the fact was that Mugabe believed that white people had no right to live because they were white. So of course individuals can be racist. The problem is, as I noted, is that’s not what black people generally talk about when they talk about racism – they mean the system is racist. White people, however, are talking about individualized racism, and that’s harder to find, at least overtly, in today’s world. If both sides understood this, perhaps they could actually talk to each other. But it doesn’t help when the writers of this comic make an assertion like that. It’s annoying.

All right, I’ll stop now. This is a pretty good comic. Plus, there are a lot of interesting essays in the back about various aspects of African or African-American life and culture. That’s kind of odd, but also neat. I wonder how it happened.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

See, that’s just rude

The Immortal Hulk volume 3: Hulk in Hell (Marvel).

There’s always been a big problem writing the Hulk, more than almost any Marvel character (except possibly Thor, because he’s in the same boat): he’s too powerful. You can believe that someone could beat up Captain America or Iron Man or Spider-Man, but if there’s a Hulk, he’s the – say it with me – strongest one there is, and it’s very hard to come up with any believable threat to him. You can de-power him, sure, but unless you’re really good at other aspects of writing, that’s going to get boring. So any good Hulk story is really based on how good the writer is, and Al Ewing is a pretty good writer, so this incarnation of the Hulk has been pretty good, as it’s basically a horror book. However, even Ewing has some problems with the Hulk, so he has to send him to Hell almost at the beginning of the comic to give him something to fight. And even then, he spends a lot of time meandering around, ruminating on the nature of evil and Bruce Banner’s relationship with his father (which you would think, now that writers have gone to that well so often, that it wouldn’t get to Hulk all that much anymore), and what gamma radiation really is. It’s pretty good, but then we get the big monster, which sounds a lot freakier from Ewing’s description than the way Joe Bennett draws it. At least Hulk isn’t impressed, and Ewing has him say a killer line before confronting the big monster thing. It’s a nice brisk tour of Hell, though, and soon enough, Hulk is back in the world, reconnecting with Betty, Leonard Samson, and discovering something unexpected. But even Ewing can’t help but lean into the fatigue that has to come with writing such an old character where every permutation has been tried. On the penultimate page of the collection, Leonard Samson says, “So … why does this keep happening to us, Hulk?” He’s talking about a plot point, but he might as well be talking about Marvel and DC comics characters in general. This is a better-than-average read, but I just kept thinking, “Really? Again?” That’s a frustrating way to read a comic.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

If he’s a doctor, let’s hope he has a Band-Aid

MCMLXXV (Image).

I’ve been a big fan of Joe Casey’s writing for about 20 years, and he’s a very cool dude in person, too,* so I tend to buy anything he writes. It’s not all superb, but for the most part, it is, and unfortunately, this falls into the disappointing portion of his bibliography. It’s not that it’s bad, exactly, because it’s about a taxi driver who fights monsters with her mystical tire iron, and that’s going to be entertaining, probably, no matter what, and Ian MacEwan’s art is stellar, and it reminds me a little of Chris Burnham’s and a little of Ian Bertram’s, and that’s not bad at all, and the monsters are creepy and the fights are brutal, but that’s really all it is. Casey does give us a backstory for Pamela – she spent some time in the monster dimension learning to fight, and when she escaped they came after her, which is why they keep showing up – but it’s fairly generic, as is the Man in the Refrigerator she gets as a boyfriend. It’s an impressive book to stare at, but it’s kind of empty calories. It doesn’t seem to be anywhere near done, so maybe Casey will return to it and flesh it out a little, but this particular trade is nothing special, story-wise. Too bad.

* I always try to say hello to Casey and the Man of Action guys at any convention I go to, because they’re really fun to talk to. Here’s a fun story: the last time I was at the San Diego con, I went to the CBLDF party, as I often do (I usually don’t know too many people, but it’s on a terrace a few floors up and the weather is usually stunning). Casey was there, and in a shocking twist, he wasn’t wearing his ubiquitous sunglasses. I actually asked him if I could take a picture of him without them, and he said curtly, “No.” So I didn’t. Damn you, Casey!!!! But I can confirm that he does occasionally take his sunglasses off!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I don’t see it

Outpost Zero volume 2: Follow it Down (Image).

I don’t have a great memory – it’s adequate, I guess – but even I was surprised by how little I remember about volume 1 of this series. It’s not bad, certainly, but for some reason, very little registered with me. I know the people in it live inside a dome, and there was snow on the dome that was crushing it so they had to melt it, and some kid went outside the dome when he wasn’t supposed to … and that’s about it. The three people on the cover there are the three main characters in this volume, and I had no idea who they were. Throughout the book, we get updates about how the melting is going, and I have no idea who any of the people are working on that (I mean, I figured some of it out just by reading this volume, but when I began reading, I had no idea). That’s probably more an indictment on me than on Sean McKeever, who writes this, but it’s not great for him, either, I’m just sayin’. Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll get volume 3. Who knows if I’ll remember what happened in this volume?

This time around, the three teens on the cover are trying to go under the city and discover some secret about the city’s past. There’s also a weird energy anomaly that’s messing stuff up and causing brownouts, and eventually they find the source of that. Before that, though, they send a camera deep under the city, where it picks up what looks like tentacles with suspiciously-looking human fingers at their ends. Very weird. And one of the expedition members dies. That’s about it. There’s a lot of talking about what it all means, but you can see why I didn’t remember too much from the first volume. This seems to move very slowly (you thought I was going to say glacially because of all the snow and ice!!!!), and McKeever hasn’t done enough to make the characters all that memorable, so when the plot meanders along, the interesting characters don’t pick up the slack. It’s … an okay book, but just kind of there. So yeah. I guess I’ll figure it out when volume 3 shows up!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Seems reasonable

Stiletto #1-3 (Lion Forge).

Palle Schmidt’s Danish comic gets an American version, and it’s a really nicely done package – the covers are nice, thick card stock, and the pages aren’t glossy like a lot of comics these days (I don’t mind the glossy paper, by the way), but a rougher stock that makes Schmidt’s line work and painting look more naturalistic, plus some back matter that’s fairly interesting. I try to ignore news about the comics industry, but I know Lion Forge and Oni recently merged, which caused some consternation among folk because of the inevitable layoffs, and while that’s annoying, both companies have been putting out interesting comics, and if this allows them to survive, more power to them. Lion Forge, specifically, has been adding nice European comics to their schedule, and while I assume they make most of their money from their shared superhero universe, if that helps them publish this kind of stuff, then I’m on board.

Stiletto is a nice, nasty little cop drama with an interesting take, which makes it more than just a nice, nasty little cop drama. Early on, two cops guarding a witness are killed and the witness disappears, and two other cops – Alphonse and Maynard – are tasked with finding the killer. They’re under a lot of pressure and have very little time before Internal Affairs takes over the case, because it’s obvious there’s a leak in the department. So we think we know where it’s going – both Alphonse and Maynard seem like the stereotypical cops in these kinds of stories – Alphonse is younger, with no kids and a hot girlfriend/wife, while Maynard is married with two teenagers, and he’s obviously fairly harried. They actually find the witness and bring him in, and at the end of issue #1, we get the twist: Maynard is actually the dirty cop, code-named Stiletto, and when Alphonse realizes it, Maynard shoots him … right in the interrogation room. Yeah, probably not the best place to kill your partner (although they did turn the cameras off, because this is still a police station where they like to rough up witnesses). He somehow manages to escape that pickle, and the final two issues are about him trying, desperately, to cover his tracks. It’s an intense comic, made better by the fact that while Maynard is a horrible person, we can’t help feel a bit sorry for him as he gets deeper and deeper in the shit. His wife, who makes more money than he does, always spends a lot, so he feels like he needs to keep up, and his kids, while not exactly horrible, are typical teens, so they cost a lot. Schmidt does a good job keeping things moving, and he also does a good job showing that Maynard, for all his faults, might not actually be the worst person in the book. It leads to a final twist, which is very bleak but also logical, as Maynard realizes that even if he feels guilty about what he’s done, nobody really cares. It elevates the comic above just another typical cop story, which is nice. Schmidt’s art, as I noted, is scratchy and rough, which fits the tone of the book, and his painting job is beautiful, as he uses mostly a greenish hue that helps the splashes of bright color stand out well. His art reminds a bit of Brett Weldele’s, which may mean something to you, but if it doesn’t, oh well.

I don’t know when the trade of the book is coming out, but it’s pretty cool, so you might want to check it out. Who doesn’t love dirty cops?!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Did he predict that?

Cover volume 1 (DC).

Unlike Pearl, I liked this quite a bit. The dialogue, while still Bendisian, is a different form of it than in Pearl, as Bendis seems to be slightly more focused on making the dialogue snap a bit better. First of all, it’s very funny in places (Pearl has moments of humor, but not too many), and Bendis is surprisingly good at writing humorous dialogue (I write “surprisingly” not because he can’t do it, but he doesn’t do it very often), and second of all, this story is about comic book creators, so Bendis (whose avatar stars in this comic) knows quite a lot about it, and it makes his authorial voice stronger. David Mack (whose avatar is basically the main character) and Bendis came up with the idea years ago, but only now have they put it to paper, and it’s quite interesting. Max Field is a comics creator who gets recruited by the CIA, which is both a superb and awful idea – the agent who recruits him mentions that comics pros travel all over for conventions and therefore have reasons to be in certain places, which is why it’s such a great idea, but as Max proves and Bendis implies throughout, comics pros are also people who work best in isolation and therefore don’t really have the skills to be spies. Max is a pretty terrible spy, in fact, and he gets found out quickly by another comics pro, who beats him up (I’m not sure if that dude has an analog; he’s Bulgarian, and I don’t know enough about creators’ nationalities to know if Bendis is “casting” someone specific) and wants to know what he’s doing. The spy stuff is the weakest part of the book, in fact – Max doesn’t seem to achieve much of anything (his handler shows him something that she claims is because he was working for them, but who knows, and anyway, it’s a very small thing), and while he manages to “flip” the Bulgarian (in a very clever way), the ending makes it seem like a hollow victory. I don’t know if Bendis and Mack are planning more of this (it ends without a cliffhanger, but also somewhat ambiguously, so there could easily be more), but if they do, it would be interesting to see if they’re going to bring the spy stuff to the fore a bit more.

Where the book really shines in how Bendis writes about the comics industry. Max is a popular and successful creator, but he’s feeling a bit trapped by his creations. He wants to break out and do other things, but of course, the fans (and his fellow pros) don’t necessarily like what he’s doing and want him to stick to the successful things he’s already done. His art, at least on the thing he’s most famous for, looks a lot like David Mack’s art (Mack’s pencil work on the book is just okay, but of course his painted work is stunning), and the story in it mirrors Max’s journey uncannily (who woulda thunk it?). Max doesn’t respect the Bulgarian’s work, even though it’s suspiciously like Bill Sienkiewicz’s, but he gets jealous later in the book when a friend has a giant print of that art hanging in his house. Max, of course, doesn’t make a lot of money, which is why it’s easy for the CIA recruiter to bring him in – he gets to go to Istanbul and Brazil for free, so the temptation is certainly tempting! His friend, the Bendis stand-in, creates a comic (with Michael Avon Oeming artwork) that he claims is going to be the next Matrix (Bendis writes the Bendis stand-in as a nice guy who’s also kind of a douchebag, which is very funny), and Max is envious of that, too. Max even saves himself a bigger beating from the Bulgarian by noting that if Jack Kirby were in the room with them, he’d know who the bad guy was, and it wouldn’t be Max. The book is very much for comics fans, which, I mean, duh, but I mean that some rando who picks up an Iron Man comic just because they dig Robert Downey Jr. might be able to enjoy it, but they certainly wouldn’t get this too much. And that’s fine.

Meanwhile, Mack’s art, as I noted, varies wildly. His pencil work can be kind of rudimentary, but it can also look very nice, and his “Ninja Sword Odyssey” work is what you might consider “pure Mack,” and it’s lovely. In between, we get some painted stuff that’s beautiful but takes place in the “real world,” so it’s a bit more solid than the “comic” he’s working on. It’s a nice-looking comic, certainly, and I’d love to break it down even more, because Mack does some cool things with page layouts, too. But that’s too much to write, so just trust me! TRUST ME!!!!!!

If you’re in the mood for a Bendis book this month, buy this one, not Pearl. Despite the actual plot being somewhat weak, it’s still a cool book. Would I lie to you?!?!?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Comics nerds get it!

Friendo (volume 1?)(Vault Comics).

Friendo is a strange comic, one that goes all over the place and satirizes several things without ever feeling like it really has a lot to say, despite the fact that it’s kind of fun to read. Yeah, it’s strange, all right. A struggling actor in Hollywood gets a gift from his more-successful girlfriend – glasses that provide him with a virtual “friend,” which is basically a search engine that mimics a human and only Leo – the actor – can see him (and then only with the glasses on). After a weird night, Leo accidentally gets electrocuted, which makes his friend – Jerry – start acting differently. Jerry is basically a vehicle to get Leo to buy stuff, but Leo has no money, so his addictions to consumerism becomes less legal as the book goes on, but when Leo tries to rob a toy store to get the one action figure he always wanted when he was a kid (his father was a weird, strict dude, so no dice on the toy), he becomes an internet sensation, and the company that makes the glasses hires him to rob the toy stores – a soulless conglomerate – and have it filmed to air as a reality show. The conglomerate’s head hires a hit man to kill Leo, but Leo bringing his mayhem to the stores makes the stock go up, so it’s a win for everyone! Except for Leo, who’s getting more and more demented. And then, things get REALLY weird.

There’s a ton going on here, and writer Alex Paknadel doesn’t pull any punches (or write with any subtlety, either) when it comes to vapid actors, the consumer culture, the gun culture, the rich, the famous, or even, to a very lesser degree, gender relations (Leo’s girlfriend isn’t in the picture too long, because she dumps his ass, but it’s clear that Leo is too busy dealing with his fragile male ego about not making more money than she does to see how good he has it). He bludgeons us over the head with it, which isn’t the worst thing in the world – it makes for a bizarre reading experience, at least, in which no one acts like a real person unless, of course, you count the millions of people who are desperate to be famous and film themselves doing idiotic things. It’s an indictment of our culture in general – the only decent person, Leo’s girlfriend, leaves the book early and, unfortunately, bought him the damned glasses in the first place. So while it’s fairly nihilistic and ends sadly (not in the way you might expect, but still sadly), it’s still a goofy comic to read, because you want to believe that no one acts this way in real life when you know damn well they do. It makes Friendo a slightly uncomfortable read, because it hits a bit too close to home even as the assassin with rabbit ears is riding the flume ride at Disneyland. But hey, what’s more ‘Murican than that?!?!?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

He loves the flume!

Scooby Apocalypse volume 5 (DC).

Scooby Apocalypse, the comic that shouldn’t work, keeps chugging along, as Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis obviously have a lot of affection for these characters, even as they kill one of them off! I don’t want to say too much about the comic because of that, but it’s a good look at how different people deal with the same tragedy. The gang has holed up in what I hope is a sly nod to other “zombie” stories, a mall, and they’ve decided to try to make it a home, and other survivors have joined them there. But it’s still dangerous, obviously, and the group is dealing with a death, and they handle it differently – some hook up, some overcompensate in other areas, some won’t talk about it. It’s a good way to kind of set things up for the final trade, and I’m interested to see what Giffen and DeMatteis do with it, because there are a lot of ways they could go. Meanwhile, they give us a hilariously weird “origin story” of Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole, which is … well, it’s something, all right.

This has never been the best book DC is publishing, but it’s a solid comic with lots of entertainment value. That ain’t bad!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I don’t think that’s how you pierce someone’s ear

Dog Days of Summer (DC).

DC continues with these big anthology comics that are a bit overpriced (10 bucks) but feature a lot of cool art and usually decent stories. Nothing great, but they’re fun to read. These are generally summer stories, but they’re also stories starring DC’s animal characters, which is a fun twist. We get a story drawn by Cully Hamner in which Krypto proves his devotion to Superman and saves the world (like you do); a sad Killer Croc story drawn by Kyle Hotz, who’s a perfect artist for that kind of thing; Stjepan Sejic draws a comic in which Ferdinand, the bull from Rucka’s Wonder Woman run, decides to find a good substitute for meat (Ferdinand barbecuing is the most disturbing image in this book); there’s a Captain Carrot story drawn by James Harren that stars, hilariously, Judge Dredd Batman; Christian Duce draws a bland but nice-looking Animal Man tale; Paul Fry is stuck drawing a Dex-Starr story, but he does okay with it; Bat-Cow has a showdown with – I kid you not – Joker Cow, and it’s drawn nicely by Tom Raney; and Cian Tormey has fun with a Beast Boy story. None of them are all that memorable, although the Croc one (by Joshua Williamson) is pretty good and Williamson manages to remember that Croc is not a mindless animal, but was once a crime boss, while the Bat-Cow one (by – wow, Dan DiDio) is hilariously ridiculous, but makes me want a series in which Bat-Cow, complete with short cape, roams the land thwarting bad guys simply by staring them down (she can’t do anything else, you know, because she’s a cow). It’s a charming anthology, and while I wish comics companies did more anthologies, I guess I’ll take what I can get!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-naaaa … BAT-COW!!!!!

Legends of the Dark Knight: Michael Golden (DC).

Michael Golden didn’t do too much work on Batman, but the stories he drew are terrific, so it was smart of DC to collect them all in a nice hardcover. I first saw Golden’s work on the Bat-titles when DC first did a “Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told” collection in 1989, when Bats turned 50, which included Golden’s goofy Bat-Mite story (I should say Bob Rozakis’s goofy Bat-Mite story, as he wrote it; it’s collected here, because of course it is!). I had also read the first three stories in this volume, “The Adventures of the Houdini Whodunit!” from Batman #295 and the two-part “Shotgun Sniper” story from Batman Family #15 and 16, but I don’t remember where. The most famous story in here is probably “… The Player on the Other Side!” from Batman Special #1 (1984), which I know Greg Hatcher loves and which I thought I read before, but I think I had just heard so much about it that I thought I had, because a lot of it was unfamiliar to me (man, Hatcher got linked to by the AV Club, because he’s so cool). That’s the one with Batman’s opposite number, the son of a criminal who was killed by a cop on the same night that Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed and decides to become a Batman of the criminal class, and Mike W. Barr – a wildly underrated writer – does nice work on it. The “Houdini Whodunit” story is the kind of thing that old-school Batman fans (which includes me, even though I’m not as old-school as some people here at the blog) wish we saw more of: a single-issue murder mystery in which Batman uses his brains and skills as much as his brawn. Plus, it has the Mystery Analysts of Gotham, and I want there to be a title that simply highlights the various detectives in Gotham – the Mystery Analysts, Jason Bard, Slam Bradley, Josie MacDonald, even Ed Nigma (turning the Riddler into a P.I. is the best idea in Batman comics in the past 30 years, I think) – but we’ll never get it, consarnit. The Batman Family stories mostly feature Man-Bat, teaming up with the aforementioned Jason Bard for the Shotgun Sniper story and then Jason Blood so they can fight Morgaine le Fey. Batman chases crooks through the sewer in another story, which sounds bland but is quite good, because once again, Bats has to use his brains, and then an ambassador, his secretary, and two Secret Service dudes (along with Bruce Wayne) get trapped in the mountains in another story. There’s an “unsolved” case of the Batman that Bats deliberately leaves unsolved because … well, I’ll let you find out, and there’s a team-up with Ragman, because why not, which hinges on the evils of gentrification years before it became trendy to point of the evils of gentrification (David V. Reed was ahead of the curve, yo!). Back with Man-Bat, we get a team-up with Jason Bard because Langstrom wants to be Bard’s partner (I have no idea how that ever went, because Golden didn’t draw subsequent stories, so maybe DC did nothing with it), and in another story, Ra’s al Ghul drugs Batman and marries him off to Talia, like you do. Golden also wrote one story, a back-up in Gotham Knights, which is drawn by Jason Pearson, and it’s a charming story (that I’ve read before, as all the black-and-white Batman stories have been collected).

The stories are all pretty solid – “… The Player on the Other Side” is the best one, but they’re all pretty good-to-excellent. The writers are Gerry Conway, Bob Rozakis, Denny O’Neil, David V. Reed, and Mike W. Barr, gentlemen who know their way around a Batman story, so it’s not surprising that they’re good. Golden’s art is superb, of course, but what’s particularly interesting is how the different inkers affect it. For the first few issues, Golden inks himself, and we get what we think of when we think of early Golden art – the slightly cartoonish look, but with rough enough inks that there’s a good balance. Then, P. Craig Russell inks him for a few stories, and the roughness is gone, but Russell hatches almost as much as Golden, so we still get the nuance of the pencil work, just slightly smoother. Jack Abel inks a story, and Abel was in his 50s by the late 1970s (both Golden and Russell were in their 20s), and Abel’s inking is, unfortunately, much more old-school than Golden’s or Russell’s – he smooths out any roughness in Golden’s line work and makes even the hatching lines look crisp, which doesn’t fit well with the pencil work. Bob Smith inks the Ragman story, and he’s better, but still not as good as Golden himself or Russell. Josef Rubinstein, another young guy (he was probably only 19 when he worked on Golden’s pencils) is back to a good fit, using more shadows and rough lines than Abel or Smith had used. Dick Giordano, another older dude but a better artist than Abel or Smith, does decent work inking the pencils on the al Ghul story, while Mike DeCarlo’s inks in Batman Special #1 are phenomenal – he adds a great deal of texture to the work, giving the many characters in the story interesting personalities on top of what Golden already gave them. Golden was older and a bit less cartoonish in his work by 1984 (ironic, given that he was about to begin work on The ‘Nam, in which his art is much more cartoony than it had been), although I wonder if DeCarlo was drawing a bit more toward the end, as the art style shifts just a little bit. The book is fairly long (40 pages), and I wonder if deadlines were getting to Golden. It’s still very good art, but the first 10-15 pages of the story are so gorgeous I wonder about it.

Anyway, this is a wonderful collection if you’re a fan of Batman or Michael Golden or both. And who isn’t? So check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Batman can bring down a helicopter just with his steely gaze!

As always, there are some books I just don’t read, despite my attempts to keep up with everything. Here are the ones from this month:

I’m behind on the two manga series, so whatever. I got behind on Copra because I never got volume 3, so now I have to read all five (and hope that there’s more), because it’s a blast, but who knows when I’ll do that. I own all the giant Usagi Yojimbo volumes, but haven’t read them yet. They’re big, yo!

And, as always, I take a look at the money I spent this month:

1.5.19.: $87.80
8.5.19.: $64.17
15.5.19.: $90.93*
22.5.19.: $127.41
29.5.19.: $117.96

Total for the month: $488.27
YTD: $3165.57

* This does not include the $70 I spent when my retailer decided to drop a sale on me unexpectedly. I got The New Teen Titans: Games, the graphic novel that Wolfman and Pérez worked on for years; the Archive Edition of the original New Teen Titans (I’ve tried before to get into the Wolfman/Pérez run and it didn’t take, so I figured I’d try again); five Paradox Press books (the Big Books of Scandal, Vice, Losers, Freaks, and Conspiracies); volume 3 of Slaine: The Horned God by Pat Mills and Simon Bisley (I should probably get the first two volumes, but this cost me 5 bucks, so what the hell); and The Thief of Always collected edition. Not a bad haul for the money.


I don’t spend quite as much time on the internet as I used to (for various reasons), so I don’t get to read as many weird news stories as I used to, but every once in a while, I see one, and here’s one: A man stole a Sno-Cat, which you might not think is too weird, until you find out that it was painted like the General Lee. Was marijuana involved? OF FUCKING COURSE IT WAS!!!! Just look at that amazing thing:


The first sentences of both news reports are reporters’ wet dreams. The first one, especially, is a masterpiece, and I wonder how long it took to come up with it and if the reporter will win a Pulitzer just for that sentence. I can’t see why not.

Let’s check out the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod, Which Is Always On Shuffle!

1. “Blissed” – Jesus Jones (1991). “There’ll be a time when all my dreams come to an end, when I’ll run out of postcards for you all to send”
2. “Original Man” – King Swamp (1989).1 “These feelings, so demanding, will not be refused, cannot be denied”
3. “If I Only Had Time” – Godfathers (1988). “A million mums are hooked on valium and you should see what you have done to them”
4. “Cleopatra” – Lumineers (2016). “And the only gifts from my Lord were a birth and a divorce, but I’ve read this script and the costume fits, so I’ll play my part”
5. “Brother Franklin” – Hamell on Trial (1996). “All my life I looked to you, admired all those things you do; you took me under your wing, said you’d teach me everything”
6. “Rocky Raccoon”2 – Beatles3 (1968). “Her name was Magill, and she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy”
7. “All But One” – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals4 (2005). “There’s just one little glint in your eye, and it will haunt me inside like the devil”
8. “I Don’t Believe In You” – Godfathers (1989). “Bless the day that I first saw you, curse the day when we first met”
9. “Beat Me Up” – Mary’s Danish (1991). “Tomorrow you tell me that you love me but it don’t mean a thing”
10. “Nothingness” – Living Colour (1993). “But this is the place I call my home, I live with the lies and the fear all alone”

1 Be honest: This is the first time you’ve thought of King Swamp in 30 years, isn’t it? ISN’T IT?!?!?!?

2 I should warn you that this song has nothing to do with the Marvel Comics character. I mean, that’s just wrong.

3 Most music is “you had to be there,” and I can think of no better band to exemplify that than the Beatles. They’re a good band, don’t get me wrong, but hearing them for the first time after already hearing so much other music, as I did, lessens their impact significantly. There are dozens of bands that did things in a much more interesting manner than the lads, and I’m honestly mystified by the place they hold in the musical pantheon, except for their focus on albums rather than singles, which was revolutionary. It really does fascinate me, because I didn’t live through Beatlemania, so they don’t have an iron grip on my heart. Good band, though, just not the best.

4 Grace Potter’s band is, unfortunately, not made up of characters from a Dan Brereton comic. That would be keen.

So that’s all for this month. Remember, if you click the link below, even if you don’t buy what it takes you to but do buy something else, I get a little bit of that, which is nice. We like keeping the lights on! Have a great day, and I hope you found some comics to interest you in this post!


  1. Louis Bright-Raven

    Yeah, I need to get the Punchline TPB (I got the Free Comics Day book and it was good enough to make me interested).

    I know I bought the first story arc of THE WRONG EARTH in singles, but I haven’t been able to get to really reading it, yet. I think all I’ve done is breeze through the first issue and that was months ago.

    “I’ve never tied a bowtie in my life, because I agree with this sentiment!”

    Heh. It was recently all over the comics / entertainment news that Neil Gaiman was over an hour late to his own release party of GOOD OMENS because nobody could tie his necktie properly.

    The rest of the stuff I either haven’t seen it myself or I just don’t have much to say about it.

  2. tomfitz1

    I remember Batman Special #1 (1984) quite fondly. Good art, good story.
    I enjoyed Golden’s art on the first year of The Micronauts vol. 1 (Marvel) and The ‘Nam.

    Interesting post, but it’s missing all the sexy gifs!

  3. Terrible-D

    A shout out to Duluth AND Blue Velvet!?
    Pbr is just fine. . . beer snob.

    Too bad Mr. Bright-Raven’s anecdote about Gaiman arriving late to the premiere was due to his inability to tie a tie, and not to the fact that he’s finally convinced Marvel to print the completed Miracleman stories.

    The Golden Batman(don’t let Dido read that or we’ll have another shit event comic introducing another knockoff character) collection looks promising. I may have to drop the coin for it. Mr. Golden’s art being enough of a draw, but stories where the “World’s Greatest Detective” actually has to use his brain are always appreciated.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Terrible-D: I have a weird obsession with Duluth. I’ve never been there and don’t know if I ever will, but for some reason I think I would dig it. Maybe some day I’ll make a special trip!

      I don’t hate PBR, but, I mean, it’s not that great. And I’m proud to be a beer snob!

      1. Terrible-D

        If you ever decide to make the trip, let me know. Having lived here my whole life it doesn’t seem all that special, but fresh eyes may see something I miss. At the very least I can recommend a few restaurants, etc.

  4. Eric van Schaik

    My shop missed Wrong Earth. Will get it later.
    Will try to find Borderline.
    I’ll get the Atomic Robo as a trade as usual.

    The situation with my girlfriend is stable.
    She can breath more and moreby herself, and maybe will move this week from IC to HC. She still hasn’t opend her eyes though.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Edo: Yeah, metastasized is probably a better word, although I’ve had it under control for some years (much to my chagrin, but I really can’t walk into a bookstore, because I can’t help myself!).

  5. Was it GMozz who had the idea of Batman having files on everyone, because that was in the storyline right after his run, when Waid took over, no?

    I read that Malmont book, probably not long after Hatcher recommended it, and it was very awesome. I think I have the sequel but haven’t read it.

    I’m not sure what you mean about Bendis’s sameness with Pearl, at least from what you write here. I also would dispute your notion that he doesn’t try to write humourous dialogue. Just because it doesn’t come out funny doesn’t mean it’s not an attempt! I also thought I saw who the Bulgarian was supposed to be, but I forget who. Esad Ribic, maybe?

    As I have been on a Beatles kick lately, I say fie ‘pon your characterization of the lads from Liverpool! Fie! No, considering how good they were and how big it’s amazing they did things like the medley on side 2 of Abbey Road or “Tomorrow Never Knows”. The Beatles are good, man!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Travis: Dang, you’re right – it was Mark Waid. Way to ruin my joke, sir!

      I’m not sure what you mean about what I mean (ha!). I just mean that his characters all talk the same, no matter who they are. When he tries a bit harder (which it feels like he did on Cover), he can overcome that, but with Pearl, it feels like he’s going through the motions. The bad guy, for instance, sounds like every other Bendis bad guy – kind of evil, but also able to speak casually about weird pop culture stuff and even appear non-evil a lot. He doesn’t always write this way, but he does it a lot.

      I wondered if the guy was Esad Ribic, but I wasn’t sure because it’s not as obvious. Could be, I suppose.

      I agree that the Beatles are good. But so are a lot of other bands, man!

      1. I’m not familiar enough with Bendis to spot something like that, but I know exactly what you mean. It’s equivalent to the way so many Chris Claremont mindcontrollers all have the same “oooh, isn’t this kinky and transgressive” voice or Geoff Johns villains like to say some version of “I will rip out [internal body part] and eat it before your eyes as you die!”

  6. Player on the other Side is marvelous. I read the library’s TPB collecting the sequels, and they were … not.
    An argument that blacks can’t be racist is indeed bullshit. Not just against whites, but against Asians, Hispanics, etc. That said, I think a number of Trump voters that I’m acquainted with are more in denial than clueless—they know at some level, but bury the awareness deep.
    Edo, I’m glad your girlfriend’s doing better. I do hope she continues to improve.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Fraser: That’s possible with Trump voters. I was talking to a dude at the comic store who voted for Trump, and it was funny how we agreed on a lot of things, but the things we disagreed on were far more important. He’s a smart dude, so it’s possible he just doesn’t want to think about it instead of trying to confront it. Good point.

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