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

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

She sighed again. “You paid long ago, Corso. You’re still paying. It’s a strange habit, postponing it all ’til the end. Like the final act of a tragedy … Everyone drags his own damnation with him from the beginning. As for the devil, he is more than God’s pain; the wrath of a dictator caught in his own trap. The story told by the winners.” (Arturo Pérez-Reverte, from The Club Dumas)

April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici (Oxford University Press).

There has long been a divide between books of “academic history” and “popular history.” They’re exactly what they sound like – academic history books are generally meant to be studied by historians and used as sources for other works, while popular history books are meant to be read by the general public. There can be very interesting academic history books and very boring popular history books, although I would imagine most people who don’t love history as much as I do would not enjoy some of the academic history books I’ve read, but maybe I’m wrong. It’s a tough line to walk, because often popular history books aren’t necessarily written by historians, so they might get things wrong or not use the best sources or simply misunderstand the context of what they’re writing about. These days, I tend to read popular history because I’m not studying history anymore, but I don’t mind reading more academic history. I bring this up because Lauro Martines, who wrote this book, was a history professor at UCLA before turning to writing, so he’s not someone who doesn’t know about the greater history of Italy, say, in the fifteenth century (although he does weirdly get the date of the First Crusade wrong, which seems odd, as it’s one of those dates that almost everyone who studies medieval history seems to know). He tries to walk the line in this book, and he doesn’t quite succeed. This is a ripping yarn about a plot by the Pazzi family to kill Lorenzo de’ Medici and his brother Giuliano in April 1478. By this time, the Medici were quite powerful, and Lorenzo himself was on his way to becoming an uncrowned prince of Florence. The plotters succeeded in killing Giuliano, but Lorenzo escaped with his life and took bloody vengeance on the Pazzis and anyone even remotely connected to the family or the plot (well, those he could – Pope Sixtus IV, for instance, knew about the plot, but he was beyond Lorenzo’s reach). So there’s murder, conspiracy, revenge, Lorenzo trying to bring the King of Naples (another person who probably knew about the plot, although there’s less evidence for it than the Pope’s knowledge) onto his side because Sixtus IV and the King of Naples launched a war against Florence in the aftermath of the murder, power politics, and all sorts of stuff you get when you take a look at Renaissance Italy. Martines shows how Lorenzo, who was a brilliant politician, used the conspiracy to consolidate his power base, tighten the oligarchy that ruled Florence so that it supported him more strongly, and changed laws so that he became almost like a prince, despite Florence’s republican past and the still-strong republican currents running through it.

The problem is, Martines wants it both ways. Parts of the book flow very nicely, but he gets into the weeds too much for popular history but not enough for academic history. There’s almost no reason for him to get into the tax returns of the Medici and Pazzi stretching back to the 1430s, but he does it. There’s almost no reason to get so much into the extensive banking empire of Cosimo de’ Medici (Lorenzo’s grandfather), but he does it. It’s not that it’s bad scholarship, but it does drag the narrative down without adding much to the popular side of the book. Readers get that the Medici and Pazzi were wealthy, and a clash between them was probably inevitable. We can get the web of economic activity that bound Europe together and bound the Pope to the Medici and why the Pope turning to the Pazzi in the 1470s was such a betrayal without Martines digging so much into the numbers. It’s early on in the book, too, so it’s a slog to get to the better stuff, which, as I noted, doesn’t really need the economic details as much as Martines seems to think. The second half of the book is better than the first half, and I wonder if readers ever got to the second half or abandoned the book early on.

Still, it’s an interesting book about the cutthroat world of the Italian Renaissance, and you can never go too wrong with that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Oh dear

Bizarre Adventures (Marvel).

It’s another one-shot, and this is a fun little anthology. First we get a Jed MacKay/Chris Mooneyham/Lauren Affe story about Ulysses Bloodstone, in which he’s basically Conan (Conan is sure influencing Marvel these days – I guess the books are selling well!). It’s a beautiful book – Mooneyham has always been a good artist, but perhaps the short length allowed him to really dig in, because it’s really nice art, and MacKay’s story ties in nicely with the greater Marvel universe while still remaining a nifty little sword-and-sorcery tale. Next up, we get a Sebastian Griner/Francesco Manna/Andy Troy Shang-Chi story, in which our hero goes to a “ghost city” in China and indulges in what is an annual fight against an old master, which leads to a lot of destruction and some fun names for kung fu moves. It’s fine, it looks nice, but it’s basically an excuse for Manna to draw two dudes beating on each other for a few pages …

Becky Cloonan, Michael Conrad, and Lee Loughridge give us a nice tale in which Dracula kind-of, sort-of falls in love with Eveline van Helsing, the daughter of Abraham, in the … 1930s, I guess, although it looks much more like the 1920s. She’s there to fight werewolves, so they team up, but in the present, Dracula watches as she’s about to die and thinks about what might have been. Poor horrible blood-sucking vampire creature! Cloonan doesn’t draw enough anymore, so her art is very pleasant to see. Then we get to the Black Goliath story by Jon Adams, Aaron Conley, and John Rauch. So this is weird.

You might notice that I got the cover with BG on it, mainly because my store didn’t order too many copies and everyone had already grabbed the Carlos Pacheco one. This is a fun cover, though, so I don’t mind. I made a joke to another customer about the writing on the cover, as I implied that “mystery mass” is, naturally, his dick (yes, despite my very serious demeanor, I’m occasionally a 10-year-old boy). I thought nothing of it until I read the story, in which BG is being interviewed about the source of his powers. This is an actual panel from the story:

I mean, that’s a dick joke, right? That has to be a dick joke, right? I mean, look at his shit-eating grin! So I’m not crazy that perhaps the copy on the cover is also a dick joke? Furthermore, the story is kind of horrifying, even though it’s funny. First of all, BG is anti-mutant – I wouldn’t have thought that, but he reacts with disgust when the interviewer asks if he’s a mutant. Second, the joke about where his powers come from is pretty funny (and I don’t want to give it away, because it’s the whole point of the story) but also horrifying. It would, however, explain natural disasters on Earth, if we think about it a little …

So, in conclusion. At least one dick joke in a Marvel comic, and possibly two if we count the writing on the cover. What glorious times we live in!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Get a room, you two! Or … a coffin, maybe?
It’s William the Conqueror’s fault!

Marvel Comics #1001 (Marvel).

The follow-up to issue #1000 isn’t quite as good, simply because there’s no overarching story running through it, like Al Ewing’s in the previous issue. Ewing writes the first and last pages, but they’re basically excuses to lead into the same format of issue $1000, with a different creative team on each page. It’s not that they’re bad pages – we get Chaykin doing a Monark Starstalker page, for instance – but they’re not creating a narrative, as loose as it was, that the first issue did. But it’s still fun. Along with Chaykin, we get an Amanda Conner page about Tigra the exterminator, a fun Charles Atlas ad parody, angry Sleepwalker, Hulks eating cookies, Captain America being kind of a douchebag (see below), Uatu cursing, a page with Kickers Inc., and Peter Parker loving pot roast. Just some light-hearted looks at the Marvel Universe done by talented creators. I mean, it’s still 5 bucks (cheaper and shorter than issue #1000), but it’s the last one of these, and it’s always nice when a Big Two company lets its hair down a little, so to speak.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

What the hell, Cap?
The scourge of good people everywhere!

The Green Lantern #1-12 (DC).

Grant Morrison’s year-long deep dive into the Green Lantern Corps probably deserves a longer discussion than I can give it here, because Morrison’s books lend themselves to critics digging into them. I will note that Liam Sharp’s artwork is superb – Sharp has always been a terrific artist, and Morrison gives him a lot of weird and cool stuff to draw, and he does amazing work (issue #7, where Morrison writes a lot of prose and the panels flow together across the page and the whole environment is a bit dreamy, is a highlight). In typical Morrison fashion, this story is about different dimensions coming in contact with each other, a menace from a different dimension rupturing the walls between dimensions, and what can be done about that. The God Of All Comics throws in a bit about everyone on Earth gaining superpowers, which he’s done before, but he puts a different spin on that, as well. I enjoy these kinds of stories, because unlike the bad guy from the regular universe who wants to conquer everything, Morrison always does a good job making the multi-dimensional menace seem truly horrible, and while the universe itself can’t end, Morrison is good at creating interesting characters in other realities, so their survival becomes a matter of some tension, especially because they don’t always make it. He also takes time to have a fun team-up with Oliver Queen, an adventure on a sword-and-sorcery planet (sure, why not?), and a trip to a planet of vampires. You know, like you do. Morrison’s strange penchant for skipping over things that he doesn’t deem important means that Hal Jordan ends up in some places in a jarring fashion (his visit to the sword-and-sorcery planet is, weirdly enough, supposed to be a vacation), and the middle section of the series meanders just a tiny bit (the Rann issue doesn’t feel completely necessary – what happens at the end is important for the plot, but there doesn’t seem to be much reason for Adam Strange to be there except for the fact that if a DC comic is in space, Adam Strange has to show up at some point, I guess), but it’s still a terrific comic. Plus, despite the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger, it doesn’t feel like we’re treading water until we can reach that cliffhanger (say what you want about Morrison, but he likes to churn through plot). I’m a shameless Whorrison, and I’m glad he’s back in the DCU doing his thing, because he just knows the characters so well and has so many interesting things to do with them. I’m looking forward to the next bunch of “Blackstars” comics!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sucks to be them
Well, come on, Batman, it’s Morrison!

Morning in America (Oni Press).

I don’t mind end-of-the-world stories, and I don’t mind stories that end on down notes, and I don’t mind end-of-the-world stories that end on down notes. I love, for instance, The Rapture, with Mimi Rogers and pre-X-Files (but post-Twin Peaks!) David Duchovny, which is an end-of-the-world story that has quite possibly the bleakest ending in movie history, and it’s unforgettable. But that doesn’t mean they’re all good, of course, and Magdalene Visaggio, who’s kind of an “it” writer right now, drops the ball a bit with Morning in America. First of all, the bleak ending kind of comes out of nowhere. Sure, it’s a story about monsters attacking a small Ohio town and the evil corporation (I know, control your shock – the corporation in this book is evil!) that might have something to do with them, but until the very end, it feels more Spielbergian, where the kids have to fight against long odds but eventually everything works out. I don’t hate the fact that things might not work out, but it does seem to come out of nowhere (and yes, I’m deliberately not revealing too much about the ending, but I will say that it’s pretty bleak). Second, it undercuts everything else about the comic. Visaggio gives us a town struggling during the Reagan Recession, as jobs are moving out and evil corporations are moving in; and the kids are getting hit hard because in the 1980s, everything weird in the 1970s in pop culture kind of stopped, as conservatism in politics and in culture reasserted itself, so those on the fringes – and her four stars are mostly that – didn’t have even as pseudo-mainstream anymore; and there’s domestic drama and the idea of the police not caring about the problem … there’s a lot going on, and Visaggio simply ignores it so she can get to her bleak ending. The first 80-85% of the book is a good drama that happens to have monsters, and the last 15% or so is a kind of dull monster story. Even the deaths of characters are almost glossed over, and perhaps, if I give her the benefit of the doubt (and why wouldn’t I?), Visaggio is pointing out the ambiguous nature of life and how we don’t always get answers to the most important questions, but this isn’t a philosophical book, it’s an adventure, and those ideas are tough to square with the “can-do” attitude of the characters and the, as I noted above, essentially Spielbergian vibe from the first three-quarters or so of the book. There’s even a meta-commentary in the form of a novel one of the girls is reading that seems to predict what’s going to happen, a plot point that goes not very far at all, and where it does go makes very little sense. It’s weird.

Visaggio’s comics – those I’ve read – go out of their way to create characters we don’t always see in comics, and she wants to show how these characters can build a community by turning the rejection of the mainstream into a rallying cry for the persecuted. In this comic, we get a moment between two characters that validates that, but again, it doesn’t really have enough of an impact because of the monsters. This feels like something that could have been more personal and trenchant, but Visaggio decided instead to set it in a time before she was born (1983), which doesn’t mean it can’t work but also means she’s getting her information about the era second-hand, and add monsters. The balance between the personal and the outrageous doesn’t really work, leading to the terrible ending that obliterates almost everything that came before it. You can be bleak if you want to, but the bleakness should come from what has occurred before, not run counter to it and ultimately overwhelm it. It’s a shame.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Ya think?
If that’s evil, sign me up!

Nancy: A Comic Collection (Andrews McMeel Publishing).

When Olivia Jaimes took over Nancy in April 2018, it caused a minor sensation (or was it major? I can’t tell anymore). I guess there are people who actually track newspaper strips and check out who’s creating them and how they’re doing. Beats me – I read Luann because I’m weirdly obsessed with it, and I read Bloom County because I follow Berke Breathed on Facebook and Bloom County is the greatest comic strip ever, so I don’t know much more about the newspaper strip culture. But I guess Jaimes taking over was a Big Thing, and I saw a few examples of her work around (mainly on Mike Sterling’s blog, because Mike Sterling stans hard for Nancy and Sluggo), so I figured I’d give this new collection of the nine months or so of Jaimes’s work on the strip. And it’s a hoot.

Jaimes updates Nancy to a degree, as the kids are always on their phones (to a hilarious degree), but the strip still has the somewhat surreal sense of humor that you find in older Nancys. Nancy is still wildly self-absorbed, and Sluggo still suffers mainly in silence. I don’t know how prominent Aunt Fritzi is in the older strips, but Jaimes makes her a rather big presence in Nancy’s life, and she’s very funny as the put-upon parent. Nancy also gets a teacher and a grumpy friend as recurring characters, which helps expand the humor because she’s not always playing off Sluggo. Jaimes also puts Nancy in a robotics class, which works very well with Nancy’s kind of rigid personality. And so Nancy goes through her days, being kind of a jerk but not an irredeemable one, and we get a lot of wry jokes and Nancy feeling like she’s the most persecuted kid in the world. There’s not much more to say – you either like somewhat bizarre humor that might not make you laugh out loud but will always make you smile, or you don’t. That’s why it’s tougher to write about humor than almost anything else. But here are some strips to show you what they’re all about:

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Man, where’s my T-shirt of this?
The lion-man approves!

Stronghold (AfterShock).

Phil Hester is a wildly underrated writer, partly because (I imagine) he started as an artist, so most people might know him as that, and he doesn’t write too, too much, so perhaps people just haven’t read a lot of his work. But he’s very good, and Stronghold is very good. It’s drawn by Ryan Kelly, who is a superb artist, so that might have something to do with it, but Hester’s story is very good, too. He takes the old “man becomes a god” paradigm that we’ve seen in superhero comics since time immemorial and does some nice things with it. Michael Grey saves a woman in a car that fell into a river, and it turns out he’s really strong and doesn’t need to breathe underwater. He doesn’t know what’s happening to him, and it turns out there’s an organization – the Stronghold – dedicated to watching him and making sure he doesn’t remember who he is or why he has these powers. Like a lot of these stories, a person gaining god-like powers isn’t a good thing, so Hester does something clever by giving us the Stronghold – usually in these stories, the response to someone gaining these powers is haphazard, but here, it’s a clear focus. There’s also a horrible monstrous creature who sows discord on the Earth while also healing the babies of those who work for him, so he’s more complex than your garden-variety villain. Hester does something clever with him, too, as he’s not quite what we think he will be. Finally, he gives us a character, Claire, who works for the Stronghold but disagrees with their intentions toward Michael. Usually in these stories, the god-like person has nothing tying him or her (it’s usually a man, but not always) to the world, so they slowly lose their humanity. Claire believes she can anchor Michael without drastic measures, and the tension in the book comes from that conflict, not necessarily the external conflict between Michael and the monster or Michael and the Stronghold. So there’s a lot going on, and Hester does a good job with it. It’s not predictable, which is nice – we think we know where it’s going, but there’s enough ambiguity that it could go a few different ways. Hester does a good job in a short period with the characters, so when they act, they do it in ways we recognize are part of their personality, so it makes the choices more “realistic” and occasionally contra the overall plot or what we think is the overall plot. That’s nifty.

Ignore the “volume 1” on the cover – I don’t know why AfterShock does it. There certainly could be more to the story, but there doesn’t have to be, and this is a self-contained story, in case you were worried about committing to something longer. It’s quite good, so you should check it out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, I mean, he did say please …

Secrets of Sinister House (DC).

Oh, look, it’s another anthology, this time from DC, as it’s time for another one of their “holiday-or-just-time-of-year” collections, with scary stories being the focus here, due to some pagan ritual that occurs at the end of October. As usual, the anthologies are usually good stuff, because they can get artists who might not want to do a monthly book (or can’t) and let them have at it for a few pages, and while the writing doesn’t always match up, they’re still pretty good. Here we get Rafael Albuquerque co-writing and drawing a story of the Vampire Batman, and it’s as beautiful as you might expect and features Smiling Batman, which is always terrifying. Dan Watters and Sumit Kumar give us a story about Ryan Choi, of all people, investigating a haunted house, which ends a bit weakly but is still pretty good. There’s a Zatanna and Harley Quinn story with scary clowns that’s more goofy than scary, but Paul Dini knows the characters well, so it works. Diego Lucero Lopez does a fairly dull “alien-monster-that’s-not-really-a-monster” story with J’onn J’onzz (the go-to superhero for this kind of story), but it’s drawn by Phil Hester, so that’s all right. Robbie Thompson and Tom Raney throw a goofy Justice League Dark tale at us, which means that we get MOAR ZATANNA and Detective Chimp, naturally (why the flying fuck is Swamp Thing in a Justice League?), and it’s silly but fun. John Layman and Jorge Fornes have probably the best story in the book, also about a haunted house, but it’s better than the others because Layman keeps us on our toes about what’s happening, which is hard to do in a superhero anthology. There’s a weird Green Lantern story by Che Grayson starring Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz that doesn’t really work because it seems to require way too much knowledge about Cruz, plus a crucial piece of information barely registers, to it doesn’t have the impact it should. Finally, Bryan Hill and Alessandro Vitti give us a pretty good John Constantine story in which he tries to figure out why Marilyn Monroe (I mean, it’s not her, but it’s her) is haunting him. Does Constantine just live in Los Angeles now? And if so, why does DC suck so much? Sheesh.

Anyway, this is a good anthology. But then again, I really like anthologies, so your mileage may vary!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

What did he tell you? Have a pig roast?

All Star Comics: Only Legends Live Forever (DC).

This collects a bunch of Justice Society comics from the late 1970s, most of them in All Star Comics but some Adventure Comics thrown in for good measure. It begins with the first appearance of Power Girl and continues from there, and there’s not a lot to say about them – they’re good, solid, 1970s superhero comics. Gerry Conway and Paul Levitz, who write the stories, are good superhero writers, although they – especially Levitz – make the team fight amongst themselves an awful lot, which I know is a staple of superhero comics but which comes across here as really stretching it, as the excuses for their fights seem especially weak. But maybe I’ve just read too many of them. The art is fine – again, very solid, 1970s superhero art – with luminaries like Keith Giffen, Wallace Wood, and Joe Staton providing most of the pencils. This was before both Giffen and Staton developed their idiosyncratic styles, and Wood was, presumably, trying to draw as fast as he could to earn money so his pornier comics could get drawn, so the weird edges are definitely smoothed out, but those dudes, even without their distinctive styles, just know how to draw, so the art looks nice. Conway and Levitz do a nice job making Power Girl and later the Huntress into good characters who resist the sexism of the other members without being too obnoxious about it – the men are more paternalistically sexist, which isn’t surprising given their ages, as they don’t treat Dick Grayson with the greatest respect, either, and PG and Helena stand up to them and also let their work speak for itself. I didn’t realize Power Girl’s boob window disappeared about halfway through the book, as I guess people complained about it, which is a bit odd given that it’s fairly conservative by female superhero costume standards. And, of course, the writers could kill someone like Bruce Wayne (note the cover!) because this isn’t the “real” DC Earth. Man, pre-Crisis DC was weird.

So this is a good collection – nothing special, but fun superhero stuff by some good creators. For me, it’s always fun reading comics that provided the foundation for some other, better comics from years later, like The Spectre and Starman. I like catching up, because I didn’t read these when they were first published!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Testify, PG!

Blossoms 666 (Archie Comics).

Words can’t express how disappointed I am with this trade. I like Cullen Bunn and I like Laura Braga, and the comic looks great and it has some interesting moments (I love when writers are allowed to kill off Archie characters, because each one of these things exists in its own little universe, so they can do what they want), and the overall idea of the Blossom twins trying to see which one of them will be the Anti-Christ is perfectly fine. So what’s wrong with this? Well, on the back of the trade, it reads that it “collects the full five-issue run” of the book. Fine and dandy. I’m cool with Bunn and Braga only signing up for a five-issue story. However, this isn’t a complete story, and really, it’s not even a complete arc of a bigger story, so what the hell? Cheryl and Jason Blossom are trying to become the Anti-Christ, and they need to do something devious to get there. They’re having a competition, but it’s never clear exactly what they’re trying to achieve, except it involves corrupting the fine teens of Riverdale in some way. Then Bunn introduces their slightly older triplet brother, Julian, who was taken away right after birth and whose existence they were unaware of. He wants in on the competition, mostly because he thinks, as the oldest, he deserves to be the Anti-Christ (I love when twins/triplets/whatevers claim they’re the “oldest,” when it’s a few minutes by which they are older). But then he allies with Betty because we see that his life was pretty crappy as opposed to Jason’s and Cheryl’s, so maybe he’s the “black sheep” in that he’s not evil? There are some plot points that are introduced, and one character commits suicide, but the story doesn’t even get really resolved, as even the stuff introduced in this arc doesn’t really pan out, so the fact that this is all there is is incredibly frustrating. Why, Archic Comics? Why would you let them do this? Again, Bunn and Braga are talented, so the actual page-by-page stuff is good, but why would an editor at Archie not say, “Well, this is fine, but it doesn’t actually end, does it? So … where’s the rest of it?” It’s really, really annoying. Come on, creators!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ (I should give it an “incomplete,” because that’s what it is)

One totally Airwolf panel:

How do you advertise if you’re one of them?
I’d read it!

Return to Romance: The Strange Love Stories of Ogden Whitney (New York Review Comics).

Ogden Whitney is best known, if he’s known at all, as the creator of Herbie, the surreal superhero kid, but the dude did other stuff, too, and in the late 1950s/early 1960s, just as the romance comic boom was ebbing, he drew a bunch of them and possibly plotted/wrote them, too, although such information is often scanty for the time period (the editor, Richard Hughes, who co-created Herbie, probably wrote them, but how much input Whitney had is unknown). On the one hand, these are fairly typical romance comics, where the woman has to change something about herself in order to attract a man. Occasionally the men have to change, but usually it’s their attitudes, not their lives, as they realize they’ve been dumb to overlook the groovy woman who’s willing to do anything to land them. Garden-variety stories like this are all over the place in romance comics, but as with Steve Ditko’s forays into the genre and the examples most recently reprinted in IDW’s/Craig Yoe’s Strange Love, Whitney is talented enough to do something different, making these interesting artifacts. They’re both more subtle and more cartoonishly over-the-top than most romance comics, which is a tough line to walk. On the other hand, they take a lot of the subtext of romance comics, which is reinforcing the status quo of the patriarchy, and making it ridiculously obvious, which makes the stories quite funny to a modern audience (and kind of depressing, because of how it used to be and how we haven’t moved the needle as much as we think). Romance comics were never terribly subtle about their intentions, which is that the woman doesn’t feel complete unless she has a man, and that she needs to bend to his will (and the will of society) in order to get that man, but in this volume, Whitney and his co-conspirators really go all-in with this subtext. Men constantly tell women how dumpy they look, how poorly they’re dressed, how obnoxiously they’re behaving, and how demure they should be, and the women eat it up. There’s even a doctor who decides that what a woman really needs is a makeover, and he, a medical doctor, is just the dude to give it to her. On the third hand, Whitney’s artwork somewhat undermines this message, as his men aren’t all dreamboats (which is usually a prerequisite in romance comics) and the way he draws the women implies that they know they’re playing a game and while they don’t like it, they know they have to play it. Sure, there’s plenty of crying over lost love by the women, but Whitney’s slightly oddball style makes other situations fascinating, as the women seem to imply from their faces that they know how ridiculous it all is. Many of the women are fairly accomplished, as well, and unlike a lot of romance comics, they don’t all necessarily give up their jobs to be with a man (although there’s still plenty of that). These are weirdly clever romance stories, in other words. Whitney got married in 1958, when he was 40, to a 42-year-old woman, and perhaps because he came to marriage late and with a woman his own age, he was able to see the stupidity inherent in so many of the romance stories of the time, and he quietly went about subverting them in the only way he knew how.

As a historical artifact, this collection is terrific. The stories aren’t bad, either, and offer us a interesting glimpse into the way comics creators tried to work in things that might not be popular with a general audience. It’s definitely worth a look.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

How dare you let the rich white dude who will make all the profit off your work down!

A Walk Through Hell volume 2 (AfterShock).

It’s Garth Ennis with an editor, so it’s pretty good Ennis, but A Walk Through Hell, while compelling, doesn’t quite reach his heights. Part of the problem is that Ennis wants it to be a philosophical meditation on evil, but he is also working in a plot-driven genre and even a plot-driven medium (the static visual aspect of comics means something like My Dinner With Andre or Nicholson Baker’s Vox – both wonderful pieces of fiction – wouldn’t work all that well in it, although some people have given it a try), so he needs to have stuff, you know, happen. This leads to a very intriguing set-up – in volume 1, two FBI agents are called to a warehouse in Long Beach where, some time before, two other FBI agents went in and never came out, and a SWAT team sent in after them came out and promptly committed mass suicide. They enter and immediately find some weird shit going on, like one of the missing agents repeatedly shooting himself in the head, but he’s still alive even with half his skull and brain missing. They realize it’s tied into a case of a serial child molester/murderer, one which they couldn’t successfully prosecute because the dude was too smart and it seemed he was protected somewhere in the system. So volume 2 is about getting answers, and Ennis doesn’t quite come through. We find out more about the child killer, but not enough. We get what seems to be an answer to what’s happening in the warehouse, as the two agents’ boss goes inside and figure it all out. Or does she? We get a religious angle that doesn’t go too far, because Ennis wants to keep it ambiguous. We get Ennis criticizing Trump, which seems to be the underlying point of the entire thing – not that Trump is bad, but that the world is evil because it spits up people like Trump and celebrates them. But that’s far too facile a reading of the current situation in America and the world in general. Ennis knows that any moments of true progress for humanity are rare, and whatever Trump has tapped into is far more primal than whatever notions of fairness and grace humans possess. So it’s tough to figure out exactly what he’s doing here. There are plenty of discrete moments in the book that are superb, as Ennis is a superb writer, and Goran Sudzuka’s art is excellent as always, with his use of blacks standing out particularly, considering a lot of the book takes place at night in a dark warehouse. But it feels like Ennis wanted to make some big statements but also didn’t want to change the “real” world too much, so he hedged his bets. I don’t mind ambiguous endings in the least, but in a plot-driven story like this, there probably should be a better resolution than “Trump sucks, doesn’t he?” I mean, of course he does, but is that good enough?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Those are, after all, pertinent questions

Crazy (Marvel).

It’s another weird Marvel book for their 80th anniversary, and I keep buying them, because why not? Anyway, Crazy is a revival of a 1950s humor magazine that tried and failed to compete with Mad, and the creators just have fun with it. There’s a parody about Wolverine’s popularity, there’s the continuing sad adventures, some romantic, of Man-Thing. There are rejected Marvel titles, including “Ghost Hitcher” (I would pay good money to read an arc in which Ghost Rider is reduced to hitchhiking) and “The Astonishing Ant-May,” there’s a very funny short vignette about a normal dude who has the Worst Day in the Marvel Universe, and my favorite bit is the interview with Ralph Macchio, because I love humorous fumetti, which this is. Marvel should publish an entire one-shot showing a humorous day at the Marvel offices, done in photo comic style. I’d buy that!

So yes, this is absolutely silly, but very fun. Marvel and DC can make fun of themselves, they choose not to do it too often. So we must grab the opportunities when they come!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

How often does the Marvel editor get asked this question, do you think?

The Island of Dr. Moreau #1-2 (IDW).

I’ve never read The Island of Dr. Moreau, but I did see the amazing 1996 movie – it starred Brando, Kilmer, and Thewlis; what could go wrong? Ted Adams and Gabriel Rodríguez have adapted it into a compact story, but it’s still gripping and excellent. There’s a conversation with the two of them in the backs of the issues where they discuss cutting the text down and deciding what to keep, and the choice to change Edward, the POV character, to a woman named Ellen is inspired (if we can ignore that in 1896, a female biologist in England was pretty rare, although not unprecedented), as it brings in a sexual element that was missing from the movie and presumably the original text (Wells was bold, but not that bold). So we get all the abuse of nature, man playing God, what makes an animal an animal and a human a human, is it possible to rebel against our basic nature and should we even try, all that good stuff, but we also get Montgomery skeeving on Ellen because it’s been so long since he’s seen a woman. They make the ending slightly more cheery (it’s still not the happiest ending, but it’s not so bleak, either), but generally, from what I can tell, they stick pretty close to the novel’s plot. Rodríguez does the entire thing in double-page spreads, which is stunning. He creates dozens of unique creatures, and takes the time to give them personalities even though many of them never speak and remain in the background. It’s a gorgeous comic, well worth it just for the art, even though the story is pretty great, too. IDW is releasing this in a fancy hardcover with the original, un-inked pencils as a bonus, and I don’t know if it’s worth 25 bucks when you can get the two issues for 10 dollars, but I’m sure the package looks amazing. I would still hunt down the issues or wait until it’s in softcover, but it’s definitely something to check out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

This will probably be tough to explain on the grant application
After the animals, this is next!

The Amazing Spider-Man: Full Circle (Marvel).

I can’t keep up with regular Spider-Man titles, even though he’s one of my favorite Marvel characters, so I usually end up getting mini-series (see below) or one-shots, like this one. They remind me how cool Spidey is and how annoying it is that his titles have metastasized all over the place so that I can barely understand where to start, much less what’s going on with them (I feel the same way about the X-Men, my favorite team book of all time). But something like this – a big, single-issue story with an interesting hook – I can deal with. Much like DC’s recent Kamandi series, Marvel got a bunch of writers together and had them write a chapter of a Spider-Man story and then hand it off to another writer with no instructions. The final chapter of this sucker was workshopped among the writers (they have texts between the writers at the end showing how it all came together), but other than that, it’s a free-for-all. Jonathan Hickman starts it off with Spidey – in his black costume – waking up in an A.I.M. facility with Nick Fury standing over him. S.H.I.E.L.D. needed him for a secret mission, but he was unconscious for two weeks before they could rescue him. A.I.M. has some kind of weapon that they’re going to unleash, and Fury still needs Spider-Man’s help. Oh, and there’s an unseen person stuck in a cell who convinces Spidey to release him, and we don’t know who he is. The chapter ends with Fury ejecting Spider-Man into space. You know, like you do.

This is a fun story that involves werewolves, time travel, Spider-Ham, the High Evolutionary, the Punisher in a very weird role, and several good shots at Disney. The writers are all solid – Gerry Duggan, Nick Spencer, Kelly Thompson, Al Ewing, Chip Zdarsky, and Jason Aaron, while we get cool art from Chris Bachalo, Greg Smallwood, Michael Allred, Valerio Schiti, Chris Sprouse, Rachael Stott, Cameron Stewart, and Mark Bagley. The writers have fun with the concept, making it kind of goofy but also a real adventure, so the people who come after them have plenty to sink their teeth into. There are several laugh-out-loud moments, and everything moves along nicely. It’s just a fun comic, and Marvel is of course ruining it by bringing out a fancy hardcover package that, like The Island of Dr. Moreau, you don’t need. Just track this down! Yes, it’s 10 bucks, but it’s nice and long, and all the creators are having fun, which makes it worth a look. Everyone loves a fun Spidey adventure, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Come on, Fury – you can like both!
We are all Spidey

Beyond the Demon, The Sea (Source Point Press).

This one-shot stars a man and his wife in the 1800s making a passage from England to New York on a ship that is hit by a storm that kills almost everyone on board. Only the couple and one other crew member survive, and things start going horribly wrong, as you might expect. It’s interesting not for the story, which is fine but predictable (wait, madness is involved? you don’t say!) but because of Davy Broyles’s fever-dream art, which adds a surreal element to the comic. Ben Templesmith, who drew the cover, would have made the book more of a creepy horror story, which would have been fine, but Broyles matches the tone of the madness in the text with a brightly-colored book, exaggerated figures, and dream-like imagery sprinkled throughout. He also creates panel borders composed of “sea foam,” curled lines that crest over the drawings, threatening to drown them as the storm attacked the ship and insanity threatens the survivors. He also uses this border design to create an illusion of three dimensions, so occasionally it appears as if the characters are emerging from the waves, which is a neat trick. Furthermore, he uses ships’ ropes as panel borders as well, showing how the characters are slowly becoming bound to the ship and their madness. It’s really an astounding-looking comic – Broyles’s figure work is a bit stiff, unfortunately, but he still manages to convey the twitchiness of the remaining crew member, the lassitude of the couple as they realize they’re adrift, and the encroaching madness that stalks the boat. This could have been a bit longer to make the descent a bit more gripping, but it’s still a pretty cool book, if you’re looking for a nasty little harrowing tale.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That guy looks like he really has it together

American Carnage (DC/Vertigo).

I’ve never understood how an undercover cop can go undercover without committing some serious crimes, as fictional portrayals of undercover cops always show them going right up to the line but not crossing it, or crossing it and being condemned. That’s kind of what happens in American Carnage, as an ex-FBI agent, Richard Wright, is asked by a former colleague to go undercover in a white supremacist movement overseen by a billionaire. Unlike a lot of fiction, Bryan Hill doesn’t shy away from the fact that an undercover cop might have to do some horrible things, but he hedges his bets a little because Wright isn’t officially sanctioned, and what he does illegally can be explained a bit until it can’t and he pays the price. But I wonder about it – are cops given immunity for the crimes they commit while they’re undercover? Do they have a list of “do’s and don’t’s” that they have to follow with regard to crime? These are the kind of things that bug me, people!

Anyway, Hill’s story is pretty good. Wright is biracial, so the agent who sends him undercover – a black woman named Sheila Curry – thinks he’ll do the job because another black agent was killed by the group. Hill (who’s black) does a good job creating interesting characters (although having two black characters say they voted for Trump feels a bit like trolling) who aren’t simply stereotypes … even the white supremacists. Sure, they’re bad dudes, but they’re not just cartoons. Wright gets into the organization, which is run by Wynn Allen Morgan, and he gets involved in a power struggle within the group – Wynn and his daughter, Jennifer, are trying to go mainstream and get Morgan into politics, while his more redneck supporters want to keep things simple by burning crosses and lynching black people – the old chestnuts of hate, if you will. Wright, of course, tries to get involved with Jennifer, because she’s the stereotypical hot blonde, but she’s also a bit deeper than we might expect. Wright himself, unfortunately, doesn’t seem like the best undercover agent – he’s careless a lot – and I wonder if it’s because he’s not officially an undercover agent or if he’s just bad at his job or suicidal (there’s a reason, we learn early on, that he’s an EX-agent). So, of course, things go to shit, but it’s still an entertaining crime drama, if you like those sorts of things (and I do). Leandro Fernandez is a wildly underrated artist, and he’s superb here, doing his usual cool thing with spot blacks and dropped holding lines, and he gets to draw a bad dude wearing a smiling Obama mask a lot, so I’m sure he enjoyed that. The book looks great, and as Vertigo publishes their trades on that rough paper, the art looks a lot better than if it had been printed on glossy stuff. The difference in noticeable!

This is a pretty good crime story, and it’s 9 issues for 20 dollars, which is a very good price. You can’t go wrong!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I mean, I guess he leaves him alive, but threatening the daughter like that? Not cool, man
So suggestive, but I’m not going to suggest it!

The Dark: Collection One (Source Point Press).

The Dark is a very slim volume of four horror stories, all drawn by Kelly Williams and written by him and a few others. There’s a Cryptkeeper character who introduces the stories, and they’re all just the tiniest bit goofy – well, one isn’t, but the others are. Over-the-top horror, especially, can be a gold mine for dark humor, and that’s a little of what we get here, from the idiot teens who don’t know when to leave well enough alone to the very weird nanny. Williams has a slightly cartoonish style that highlights both the horror and the slight goofiness of it all, but he’s also very detailed, so we get a good sense of the characters and where they are, which makes the horror a bit more real. He also uses shading and coloring to good effect – most of the book is black and white with blue shading, which makes the spots of color pop even more. I can’t really say too much about this – it’s fun horror, it looks good, and it’s only 7 bucks for a nice-looking book. Let’s move on!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I predict this will work out really well!

Invisible Kingdom volume 1 (Dark Horse).

On the one hand, Invisible Kingdom has a lot going for it. Christian Ward is a good artist, and weird sci-fi is right up his alley, as he has a strong design sense and a very wide and bright color palette, so his art always looks futuristic and slightly bizarre. Despite the humanoid nature of all the characters, Ward does a good job making them strange and “alien” so that we can relate to them but understand what a different setting this is. G. Willow Wilson is a good writer, and I can only think of one other writer I’d want writing a story about religion among today’s comics writers, and her story, about a hard-nosed freighter pilot and a nun who discover a planet-spanning conspiracy – is a good one, at least with the way she brings us these fascinating characters and puts them together. The book is interesting and fairly exciting, as both Grix (the pilot) and Vess (the nun) have to escape from dire situations before they come together.

On the other hand … the conflict in the book isn’t really compelling (at least, not yet). There’s a giant corporation and a giant religion, seemingly at odds with each other, but both Grix and Vess discover, independently of each other, that the corporation is funneling money to the church. This causes consternation on their part and puts their lives in danger, but Wilson never explains why. She lampshades it when she has Grix release the information to the news and no one cares, but there’s no good reason for anyone to be upset except for the fact that the church is hypocritical, which, I mean, big surprise. Both the corporation and the church try to kill the two, but why? I get that the church might be a bit grumpy given that they’ve built their faith on a renunciation of worldly things, but the corporation is just doing what corporations do. Wilson, it seems, is trying to point out the difference between a church and a faith, as Vess still thinks her religion is valid despite the church’s corruption, but this is still an adventure series, and the antagonists’ motives are so weak it weakens the entire book. As we know, true believers will always believe no matter what evidence they are shown contrary to that faith, while consumers will always consume what’s easiest for them no matter what the moral ambiguity might be behind it. Wilson isn’t saying anything new, but there’s still potential for good fiction here. It’s just that she skips the part where the knowledge of what’s going on is such a huge threat to both business or church, so the book feels aimless. It’s too bad.

Obviously, this is the first arc of a longer series (I don’t know how long the book is planned for). I might pick up volume 2 to see if Wilson course-corrects, because I want to like this. We’ll see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

‘You forgot your change!’

Spider-Man: Life Story (Marvel).

Speaking of special events starring Spider-Man, Chip Zdarsky’s story of Peter Parker aging in real time, from 1966 to 2019, is pretty keen. Zdarsky postulates what might happen in a “real world” setting if, say, the superheroes all started fighting each other in 2006 (which I’m sure they didn’t do). He looks at the creepiness of creating a Gwen Stacy clone in a way that couldn’t really be done in the 1970s, and he wonders what would have happened if Kraven and the alien symbiote had met. He also continues the Vietnam War, with Iron Man fighting on the side of the United States and Captain America fighting for the civilians of Vietnam, in a nice precursor to the Civil War which also keeps us within the realm of possibility (Iron Man, after all, was created to fight the Vietnamese). He does some interesting stuff with the characters, showing that Otto Octavius might not have turned evil (until he inevitably does) and that Sue Storm really would have left Reed Richards years before to canoodle with Namor, because Reed Richards in the “real” Marvel universe is one of the worst people around. Zdarsky tries to answer questions about why Richards, say, doesn’t make the world a better place with his inventions, but he just makes it clear that the fact that the Marvel Universe isn’t a better place is really stupid. He touches on 11 September briefly, but wisely doesn’t linger there (why there has to be a 9/11 in the Marvel Universe makes no sense, but that’s what they want!), and he inexplicably brings in Morlun, perhaps just to show what a putz that dude really was. It’s an entertaining and tragic story, and Zdarsky does a nice job with it.

Bagley is Bagley – I like him, but he’s still pretty vanilla. He’s a good superhero artist, but that comes with limitations, and Bagley’s are on full display here. His action is excellent, his designs are pretty cool, and his pacing is top-notch. You might not like his style, but he knows how to get you through a high-octane superhero story. Unfortunately, Bagley isn’t all that inventive or diverse, and in a book that spans decades, it would have been nice to see differences in the style. He makes very few nods to fashion of the time, usually limiting himself to some period haircuts or a gold chain on Harry in the 1960s, for instance. But the stuff from the 1970s, for instance, looks exactly like the stuff from the 2000s, and while I don’t always love fiction going over the top to say “Hey, this is a specific time, yo!”, it’s still true that things do change, but Bagley doesn’t even try to make it look like time is passing except to make everyone get gray hair. It’s frustrating, because there are artists who can ape the styles of the times (which would have been kind of neat) or at least the way things looked (which would also have been neat). I like that the book is a fun superhero book, but Zdarsky is going for something more, and Bagley just can’t deliver. It doesn’t make the comic bad, just lacking in what could be its full potential. Oh well.

Anyway, this is a pretty good comic. I like it when Marvel does stuff like this!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, I mean, she’s not wrong
Had to be done

Dick Tracy Forever (IDW).

Michael Avon Oeming gives us a profoundly weird Dick Tracy comic, although most of the Dick Tracy stuff I’ve read in my life is weird, so maybe he’s just a weird character? It begins like a regular Dick Tracy jam – oddball bad guys, Dick being straight-and-narrow and missing dates with Tess Trueheart because he’s too busy ridding the streets of crime – you know, just your normal cops-and-robbers kind of thing. Then it shifts to a present day setting where Dick and Tess are married and have a teenage son who’s deathly ill. Tess is also a cop, undercover with a gang that is trying to traffic in genetic modification kits, and she feels the pull of the things to save her son, even though they’re illegal and Dick tells her to let it go. Then, suddenly, we’re in the future, and there’s a bad guy stealing souls, almost (it’s not quite that metaphysical, but it’s close). Oeming draws it like he drew Cave Carson, with his usual style accented by Benday dots and some clever page designs. It’s just weird. It’s kind of linked together, but he tells short stories about Tracy and slowly builds up to the final story, which doesn’t have much to do with what came before but does follow from it in some ways. I don’t know. It’s fun to read and look at, but it also feels like empty calories a little bit. I don’t really have much more to say about it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Mexican standoffs never end well

These Savage Shores (Vault Comics).

I wasn’t sure what I was getting with this – the solicit made it sound like a vampire story set in India during the 1700s, and while I’m not the biggest vampire fan around, I do like seeing stories about traditionally Western monsters in other settings (which is why Matt Wagner’s Japanese vampire in Grendel was so creepy). So I figured I’d give this a look … and, yep, it’s a vampire story set mostly in India, but it’s a lot more than that, and it’s a superb comic, one of the best of the year. It begins somewhat like a traditional vampire story, with the narrator – a vampire – writing a letter to his mentor in London as he sits on a ship bound for Calicut, on the southwestern coast on India, in 1766. Well, it actually begins with a man and a woman underneath a tree, obviously in love, obviously important to the story. But they’re not important right now! Alain Pierrepont, the vampire, was apparently flaunting his appetites a bit too much in London, so a vampire hunter is able to track him and seriously wound him, which makes his boys think he’d be better off in India. Ostensibly, he’s on a mission for the East India Company, the trading concern that, shockingly, pretty much ruled India in the 18th century (the British government really didn’t want to be in India, so the EIC raised armies and started ruling just for the fun and profit of it). Alain is supposed to befriend one of the petty princes that the Company kept in power so that he (the prince) will give his blessing to a road across the southern end of the continent to facilitate more trade. Alain thinks he can do this and secretly prey on whomever he likes, as he’s among “savages,” but he is soon disabused on that notion, and the book takes a far more interesting turn.

I don’t want to get too into it, but writer Ram V (who I’m pretty sure is Indian) does a lot with the mythology of the sub-continent, the history of the 1760s, and the notion of colonialism, civilization, and savagery. The story focuses on the First Anglo-Mysore War (1767-69), which was basically a bunch of Indian princes either getting pissy with the British or allying themselves with the British. Prince Vikram, the young prince whom Alain is supposed to befriend, has an advisor named Bishan, the dude under the tree at the beginning of the story. There’s a lot more to Bishan than we might expect. Anyway, Vikram allies himself with Hyder Ali (a real dude) to fight the British, but things go poorly. Of course, the vampire hunter who was tracking Alain in London ends up in India, as does Alain’s mentor and some of his buds. There’s a lot of violence, and shocking things happens, and it’s all very gripping and entertaining. Ram V gets deep into the idea of a “civilized” people being as savage as the “savages” without making it too obvious, and he gets into the idea of monsters and who really is a monster very well. Meanwhile, Sumit Kumar draws it beautifully, with amazing detail bringing every panel to life, astonishing colors showing the contrast between cold and rainy London and the languid humidity of the tropics, and terrific flow to the action scenes. He gives us a sense of the deep and ancient civilization of India, a civilization that was old when the British were living in mud huts, but he also gives us hints of the decadence of India which allowed the uptight English to conquer it. We get beautifully designed characters and clothing, once again contrasting the Indians and their more practical outfits with the red coats of the British soldiers, which never look comfortable no matter how many times we see them. It’s partly a horror comic, and Kumar does a marvelous job bringing that horror to life.

I wasn’t quite expecting this when I got this trade, but it’s wonderful. Now I have to see what else these dudes have done, and maybe pick up some of that stuff!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Come on, man, be a bro!

Here are comics I bought but didn’t read, for one reason or another:

Most of them are single issues that are part of a larger arc, so I’ll read them when the arc is done: Black Hammer/Justice League (the final issue of Black Hammer just came out, well after this crossover began, so I have to read that and this), Collapser (a six-part story), Copra (I’ve bought the trades before this, but now it’s at Image, so I figure I should support it so it keeps going), Criminal (I don’t know when the arc ends, but it ain’t this issue), Die, Doom Patrol (I don’t know if this is ongoing, but I figure I’ll read a bunch of them at once), East of West (this final arc has been delayed a while, but now it’s here!), Grendel (what is this, eight issues?), Gutter Magic (I wasn’t sure when I ordered this if it was a new story or a reprint of the one from a few years ago, and it turns out it’s a reprint … but I ordered it, so I bought it!), Manifest Destiny (it’s back, and I’m happy, but this is the first issue of the arc), Once and Future (I decided to buy this in single issues to support Kieron Gillen and because Boom! does weird things with their trades), Outer Darkness (the second arc finishes with issue #12), Strange Skies Over East Berlin, Tree: Three Fates (both of these are mini-series, so I’ll get to them). Meanwhile, I didn’t read the trades for a variety of reasons, usually due to time constraints. The Baltimore Omnibus and the Doctor Strange Marvel Masterworks are pretty long, and I just didn’t have time. The Ditko book is pretty long, too, but I might have been able to get through it. However, it’s Ditko – what do you really need to know? I tend to read manga when the series is complete, and the first volume of The Drifting Classroom is gigantic, so I skipped it. Gideon Falls is good, but it’s volume 3, so I figured it would be okay to skip. I got behind on Infinity 8 when I was in Pennsylvania in July, so I skipped volume 4 and haven’t caught up. I ordered volume 1 of The Long Con, but it never came in, so now I’m waiting for my shoppe to get it on re-order. Finally, Soulsearchers is really long, and it’s Peter David, so it takes even more time! I’ll get to it!

Money spent in October: $896.78
Money spent YTD: $6676.55

Well, I claim I’m trying to spend less money on comics. Doesn’t always work out that way, though.


I always like writing about real-world stuff, but I haven’t had a ton of time recently. The impeachment of the president, though, is fascinating to me, mainly due to the reactions of Trump supporters and Republican politicians. Mitch McConnell said the other day that he’s not even going to read the transcripts of the witness testimonies, which makes me wonder if they can impeach McConnell. I mean, I get that the Senate hasn’t passed any bills recently because they’re all coming from the socialist House, but if McConnell’s not passing any bills and he’s not reading the transcripts of what will probably be a trial of the president, what does he do all day? I’m asking that seriously, because he doesn’t seem to be, you know, a senator. It’s very weird that part of his job is presiding over the trial when a president gets impeached and recommended for trial and he’s already said that he’s not going to do his job. I really need to run for office. I should tell my boss, “Yeah, I’m not going to do that part of my job.” I wonder how long I’ll have my job. Meanwhile, I’m mystified by Trump supporters in general. I mean, I’ve always been mystified by people who voted for him, but the few Trump voters I’ve spoken to usually had very narrow and specific reasons for voting for him and I assumed they just ignored the rest (I get that, but when I vote for someone, the reasons I like them far outnumber the reasons I might not; with Trump, so much is objectionable that the reasons you might like him have to get lost in the cacophony of racism, bullying, stupidity, and all-around weirdness). I’m talking about the fact that Trump supporters either deny that anything bad took place even though it’s clear he committed a crime and he admits it proudly, or they don’t care that he committed a crime. I get being partisan and supporting your person, but this is ridiculous because it’s not like Trump has been president for decades and he’s become part of the fabric of American life. I can understand why dyed-in-the-wool Catholics refuse to admit that priests were raping kids because those people have been Catholics their entire lives and their families are Catholic and it’s part of who they are and if they admit that Catholic priests were raping kids they’d have to deny part of themselves (I don’t see it that way, but that’s an understandable reaction). But Trump is just a huckster, and while he’s been famous for over 30 years, it’s mainly as a court jester or perhaps your embarrassing uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving and rants about “hippity-hop” and how nobody plays football like Ditka anymore. I suppose Trump is just the focus of a lot of hatred and racism and anxiety about the strange people moving into positions of power and how men aren’t allowed to slap women on the ass anymore and doesn’t that suck? and we’re all losing jobs overseas but we can’t hold CEOs accountable because they wear nice suits but we can hold poor people in other countries responsible because they speak weird languages. It’s not Trump the person, it’s Trump the symbol. If he’s held accountable for his crimes, their last vestige is gone, and they might have to stop being racist and stop blaming poor people for their problems and maybe rethink crony capitalism and make some hard choices about their lives. If there’s one thing ‘Muricans hate these days, it’s making hard choices, and Trump tells them they don’t have to. So I’m curious as to where this is all going, and next week we’re going to find out.

In lighter news, my wife and daughter made their annual tiny vacation during Fall Break, and they decided to go to Las Vegas. While they were there, this happened:

Yes, those are real dudes, not cardboard cut-outs, and apparently they were very nice as well as easy on the eyes. They told my daughter she really has to see the movie Titanic, which might make John Layman happy (he inexplicably loves the movie) but makes me question their taste. Wait, male strippers might have poor taste in movies? I’m shocked!

I’m feeling frisky, so let’s check out the Ten Most Recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle And Always Resets At Odd Times):

1. “Hunger” – Of Monsters and Men (2015). “But in this quiet company I forget sometimes just how to breathe”
2. “Of Monsters and Heroes and Men”1 – James (2008). “Rambling poets, manic with vision, we are the drivers, yet we feel driven”
3. “Mind Riot” – Soundgarden (1991). “I built an elevator from his bones; had to climb to the top floor just to stamp out the coals”
4. “Love 2 the 9’s” – Prince (1992). “Could you keep your cool if I washed your feet?”
5. “Warning Sign” – Coldplay (2002). “Come on in – I’ve got to tell you what a state I’m in”
6. “Slipping Through My Fingers” – ABBA (1981). “What happened to the wonderful adventures, the places I had planned for us to go?”2
7. “You Don’t Exist” – Chumbawamba (2010). “You have no friends, you won’t be missed”
8. “Delirious” – Grace Potter (2015). “I never close my eyes ’cause I don’t know what’s waiting on the other side”3
9. “Mamma Mia”4 – ABBA (1975). “I’ve been angry and sad about things that you do, I can’t count all the times that I’ve told you we’re through”
10. “Heart-Shaped Box” – Nirvana5 (1993). “Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back”

1 My iPod does this sometimes, putting songs that aren’t really related but have vague similarities to each other together. I think my iPod has a sense of humor, which I suppose will be good for me when the machines take over. This is probably my favorite James song, too, or possibly my second favorite. Dang, it’s good.

2 Is Sad ABBA the Best ABBA? Discuss!

3 Who knew Grace Potter did a solo album because she wanted to do disco music?

4 As always, I cannot stress enough how much fun 1970s ABBA videos are.

5 Is Krist Novoselic the nerdiest person to ever play in a hard rock/heavy metal/punk band? Discuss!

Well, that’s all for this month. I provided a link below, and remember, if you use it for anything (Christmas is coming, yo!), I’ll get a tiny piece of it, which helps keep the lights on here. Have a great day, everyone!


  1. tomfitz1

    The only two books on this list that I’ve read are GREEN LANTERN and A WALK THROUGH HELL.

    I really enjoyed the gif between These Savage Shores and Dick Tracy Forever. Would love to meet that model someday.

    I’m looking forward to the end of EAST of WEST, however 3 issue arc? How the hell is Hickman is going to tie up everything in 3 issues? Better not be like GOT final season!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: Yeah, I figured you would. Do you know who it is?

      Is it only three issues? Sheesh, Hickman. I guess we’ll just have to see how he wraps it all up, if they ever show up! 🙂

        1. Greg Burgas

          Tom: Oh, I know who it is, I just wondered if you did. It’s Ava Cadell, who had quite the acting career in the late 1970s through the mid-1990s and is now apparently a sex therapist. Good for her!

  2. Edo Bosnar

    At the risk of steering this thread into politics, I have to say I disagree slightly with this:
    “If there’s one thing ‘Muricans hate these days, it’s making hard choices, and Trump tells them they don’t have to.”
    Mainly, “these days.” I remember back in the 1980s Reagan coasted to the White House twice telling everybody pretty much the same thing.

    Switching gears to your discussion questions: Sad ABBA is not the Best ABBA – Funky Disco ABBA is, naturally, the Best ABBA. But I do agree that ABBA videos, or just footage from their performances on TV shows or concert clips, are quite fun.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Edo: Yeah, good point – I thought briefly about expanding it, but decided against it. I’d go back even further, maybe to the passage of the Civil Rights Act. “Well, we fixed racism,” Americans said, popping open a beer. “Time to chillax!”

      The great thing about the ABBA question is that there are so many options and NONE ARE WRONG!!!!! 🙂

        1. Greg Burgas

          Travis: Sure, but I hope that was implied, and not only because white people were and still are a fairly large majority of Americans. But yes, white Americans!

  3. I just started Rick Perlstein’s “Invisible Bridge” and he makes the same point as Edo: Nixon and Reagan both assured Americans that everything was fine, no hard questioning or angst about America’s actions had to spoil our pride in the Greatest Country Ever.
    “First of all, the bleak ending kind of comes out of nowhere.” I had the same reaction to Asterios Polyp: fantastic book except the end. Not that this is unique to comics: the original ending for Clerks would have had the protagonist die.
    These Savage Shores sounds most interesting.
    Why do so many people hate Reed? In Venture Brothers he’s parodied as an a-hole, in Planetary he’s even nastier, now this?

    1. Greg Burgas

      Fraser: It seems like people are starting to come around to just how much Reagan damaged the country, which is refreshing. It usually does take a while to see how political decisions play out, which is why Trump’s presidency is so bizarre – he’s so incompetent that the consequences of his decisions come breathtakingly fast, so everyone is a bit dizzy!

      Good point about Asterios Polyp. I didn’t love it before the ending, but yeah, that ending was something.

      I’ve always hated Reed. He’s a lousy father, for one, and he seems to be only a slightly better husband, but still not a great one. I’m an old-school Reed-hater! 🙂

      1. I don’t see Reed as that bad, at least by the skewed standards comics often adopt.
        Re Dr. Moreau, I highly recommend Charles Laughton’s Island of Lost Souls. Laughton makes the role creepy by playing against the mad scientist type: he’s very calm and matter-of-fact, even when he’s talking about mating humans with a were panther. It’s effective.

        1. Greg Burgas

          Fraser: Reed is one of the few husbands and fathers who’s been a husband and father for a long time in superhero comics, so he gets to be judged more than everyone else, which is why I’m so harsh on him. Perhaps if he were compared to others, he might look better, but you don’t get a lot of that in Marvel and DC, sadly.

          I’ve heard that Island of Lost Souls is good, and I’m sure Laughton is good in it. Someday I’ll see it!

      2. I’ve read articles that point out Reagan’s popularity was very low when he left office; it was after his death that active canonization on one side vs. not speaking ill of the dead let the right wing sanitize him. Much like the way the right treats MLK’s memory, any inconvenient details (like how many people on the right despised him making peace with the USSR) get scrubbed away.

  4. jccalhoun

    Morrison’s Green Lantern is interesting. I don’t know if I can say I like it but it is interesting. I was a Green Lantern fan since I was a kid in the 80s and it is nice to be able to read Green Lantern again without all the stupid rainbow emotional spectrum junk.

    Morrison’s Green Lantern reminded me of stuff from Heavy Metal magazine (which makes sense since Morrison edited Heavy Metal for a while (is he still? I don’t know?)) It looks cool but doesn’t make all that much sense. I’m along for the ride though.

      1. I believe GMozz is no longer involved with Heavy Metal, and things I’ve read make it sound like they’re in turmoil behind the scenes. They have had a shitload of trouble getting books out on time, although the magazine seems to be back on a semi-regular schedule.

  5. Eric van Schaik

    Only A Walk Through Hell for me.
    When GL is collected I will get it. Was curious about it.Thanks for your comments.

    I bought the Jack Kirby is Fantastic King-Sized HC. It was half priced because of a minor dent.

    ABBA: I’m a Marionette is my favorite song. Maybe because I like songs that have a sad vibe. The clothing make the clips funny.

    When it comes to music I discovered a new band: Klone. The last 2 years I went to the Midsummer Prog Festival in Valkenburg. I was going to order 2 tickets because my girlfriend is open minded when it comes to music. They already have a line up for next year. I listened to some of the songs on YouTube and i’m hooked!!
    If your curious check out there Here Comes The Sun album.

    Nice to see your wife and daughter having fun.
    A reason for you to do some workout? 😉

    As a foreigner I don’t have all in in’s and out’s but Trump has certainly polarized politics. I wonder how much it will take for it to get back to normal. We have our share of loonies (Wilders, Baudet) but luckely they don;t have power (yet?).

    1. Greg Burgas

      Eric: Wow, “I’m a Marionette” – that’s a pretty deep cut!

      One of these days, I swear I’m going to have to go through your comments and listen to all the bands you drop. I’ve managed to get to a few, but not close to all of them, so I’ll have to set aside some time to dig through the comments sections!

      You’d think that would inspire me to work out, wouldn’t you? Probably won’t, though!

      I was watching some reporter on Stephen Colbert saying that the next president is going to have quite a job to do, especially in the foreign affairs sector. Man, what a mess Trump is!

      1. If the missus hasn’t left Burgas yet, she’s not going to just for some pretty boy muscle man. But when did your daughter get grown up?! Isn’t she like 7 or something? When did time pass? Why are we all getting older? [insert quote from the Tempest or King Lear about stopping time]

  6. Louis Bright-Raven

    Hm… how many issues of STRONGHOLD are collected in that trade? I was getting the singles but it seemed to disappear? (I have 5 issues)

    I got the DR. MOREAU issues… haven’t read them yet.

    Also got DEVIL’S ODYSSEY #1 (and #2 which came out this week) and COLLAPSER #4 that I also haven’t read, and I’ve been getting the INVISIBLE KINGDOM series in singles, but only read the first 2 issues and don’t really remember it that well – again, how many issues does the trade collect? I think I’m up to issue #7 in singles so far.

  7. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

    Well, I’m definitely gonna buy These Savage Shores!

    That said…I don’t think Ennis has much, if any, editorial oversight at Aftershock – their main selling point for creators is that they’re allowed to do whatever the hell they want.

    And, honestly, that may very well be why he didn’t stick the landing!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Carlos: You’re probably right, because that does seem their credo, but Mike Marts is listed as the editor, so I wonder if he’s able to influence Ennis just slightly. It’s possible the lack of editorial oversight meant that he screwed up the ending, but perhaps some editorial oversight is why there aren’t tangents into truly disgusting stuff, which is where Ennis likes to go occasionally. Hmmmm …

      1. Call Me Carlos the Dwarf

        I mean…the hands.

        And that entire issue detailing the Anti-Christ’s childhood.

        I found both ickier than anything that happened in, say, The Boys.

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