Celebrating the Unpopular Arts
What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – September 2017 (and some of August)

What I bought, read, or otherwise consumed – September 2017 (and some of August)

“You signed pacifist and nonviolent petitions, you were outraged by racism. You even joined an antivivisection league.”

“Animal vivisection, I imagine.”

“Of course. Human vivisection is called war.” (Umberto Eco, from The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana)

Whenever the month ends so close to a Wednesday (as August did), I never get a chance to read the stuff I get on that Wednesday, so while I don’t write about everything, I did want to check in on a few things. Then we’ll get to the stuff that came out in September. Aren’t you glad I explained that?

Airship Enterprise: The Infernal Machine by Brian Denham (writer/artist/colorist/letterer), Robby Bevard (colorist), Joey Weltjens (colorist), and Tony Galvan (colorist). $14.99, 80 pgs, FC, Antarctic Press.

Brian Denham is a strange case of a comics creator, because the dude is such a talented artist, and the very few Big Two comics he’s drawn have looked great. But he doesn’t do a lot of them, and in recent years he’s found himself under Antarctic’s aegis, and I’m not sure if that’s where he wants to be or if he can’t work from the Big Two even though far lesser artists do get work from them. Then I wonder if he’s stubborn and wants to write as well as draw and won’t be moved on that, or if there’s some other reason that DC or Marvel won’t employ him. Because believe me – as an artist and as a superhero artist, he’s terrific. Airship Enterprise is Exhibit A, as it’s really a beautiful book.

Denham’s idea is to set Star Trek in a steampunk world. Yes, steampunk often sets my teeth on edge, but in small doses it’s fine, and when it’s a beautifully drawn as Airship Enterprise, I can deal with it. Note the drawing of the ship on the cover – Denham really commits to the aesthetic of steampunk with the ship, giving us giant rotors and pipes going everywhere and small shuttles that look like railroad cars. The crew wears suspenders and puffy-sleeved shirts and tunics with lots of buttons and coats edged with fur, and they all look fabulous. One of the crew members is randomly an alligator-human, another is blue and has antennae, but the rest of them are regular humans, and there are a lot of them, but Denham gives them each nice physical and personality attributes that helps us tell them apart. His villain, a weird undead quasi-voodoo priestess (it’s kind of unclear what kind of god she’s serving), is nice and scary – wrapped in shredded clothing but armed with weird technology and curly black hair piled high on her head. Denham crowds his pages, but his storytelling chops are quite good, so he can put a lot on each page but still move through the story well. There’s one point where the Enterprise has to escape from the zombie priestess that’s a bit confusing, but other than that, it’s nice to see an artist get a lot onto the page and still be able to tell the story coherently. He does action very well, as his characters aren’t stiffly posed and his compositions work as set pieces, and he uses special effects well, without overdoing them. There are a few well done creepy pages as the undead priestess tries to take over the crew, and Denham’s line work, along with the coloring, makes the book a delight to look at.

As for the writing … well, for a writer, Denham sure is a good artist, isn’t he? That’s not to say the story is terrible, because it’s not. The idea has a lot of potential, and Denham does a good job giving every character moments where they can show why they’re important parts of the crew. The captain, Janus Tibbs, and the first mate, Bernard Spaak, are the most developed characters, and they have a good relationship that shows how much they trust each other. Tibbs does a nice job figuring out what’s going on with the zombie priestess, and Denham gives that a well done, non-violent resolution, even though it’s not the end of the problems in the story. So there’s some good stuff in the book. Denham, however, paces the story very weirdly, as it tends to jerk around a bit without a lot of flow, and the other bad guys the Enterprise has to deal with don’t exactly come out of nowhere, but they’re definitely shoe-horned into the story a bit. Tibbs’s dilemma when the landing parties find the undead priestess isn’t really given enough space, so when she has to make a hard choice, it seems to happen almost by accident and isn’t given the emotional weight it needs. The confrontation with the zombie is inert, as the payoff comes off-panel, which is very odd. I don’t know if Denham was under the gun in terms of page count, but this is not a long story (although there are promises of more, so there’s that), and there are definite gaps that make it not as resonant as it could be. It’s a shame, because the art is really neat, the idea is pretty good, but the way Denham moves through the plot falls short.

I will, however, get another trade if it comes out. I like Denham’s art that much, and I live in hope that he’ll get better at the whole writing thing. We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Things You Shouldn’t Remember volume 1 by Luis Roldán Torquemada (writer/letterer), Mariano Eliceche (artist), and Angel Lidon (colorist). $19.99, 110 pgs, FC, Darby Pop.

The first volume of Things You Shouldn’t Remember is a terrific book, full of exciting action, bloody but not over-the-top violence, interesting characters, and a central idea that is extremely intriguing. As a character info-dumps toward the end, certain pieces of knowledge threaten to destabilize the universe, so a group of aliens decided to edit those things out of existence. On Earth (presumably this goes on everywhere), they get humans to basically hunt down people who know weird things that have been edited (which, of course, no one else remembers) and, you know, kill them. So if Jeff Goldblum had been Ichabod Crane in a television movie and that had been edited out but only I remembered it, I’d be dead. This comic is about some of those people and, of course, what they do to find out what’s really going on (something else has to be going on, right? I mean, that’s the nature of fiction!).

The ostensible main character is Marc, a quasi-grifter who says he plays poker for money, but there seems to be a bit more to it than that. In the beginning, he owes money to a local mobster, but that’s a swerve simply to both introduce one of his love interests (yep, he might have two in this book … then again, he might have none) and to set up the mobster as the bad guy, when he has very little to do with the plot. Marc remembers a song that no one else does, which makes him a target of the “handlers,” who work for the aliens keeping the pieces of knowledge from “infecting” anyone else (they’re highly contagious, naturally). Plus, there’s a group called the “enlilites,” who are trying to stop the aliens. This is where the book gets a bit weird. Marc and Monica, his first love interest (who’s working for the gangster, naturally), escape when a handler tries to kill them (although, as we find out later, he’s not exactly doing that), and so other handlers have to come after him. Eventually Monica doesn’t want to have anything to do with him anymore, and he meets his (possible) second love interest, Christine, who inexplicably wandered through a door and ended up in the aliens’ nerve center, so she’s a bit freaked by what’s going on. Meanwhile, a dude named Travis is also remembering something he shouldn’t, the existence of a Meso-American tribe, and he’s trying to get the word out while running from the enlilites. Things don’t go well for any of these people. It’s a bit confusing, because the enlilites and handlers both seem to be doing the same thing – killing people who remember things – but at one point, one of the enlilites mentions a “ritual,” so I assume we’ll find out more about how their killing of people who remember is different from the handlers’ killing of people who remember. In the meantime, everyone’s on the run!

As I noted, it’s a tiny bit confusing, but not too much, and the entertaining idea and the solid banter between the characters help keep us from noticing that too much, and I’m sure it will get cleared up in subsequent volumes anyway (there has to be more, because this is nowhere near the end of the story, so I hope the creators are able to continue). Meanwhile, Eliceche’s art is excellent, so that’s nice. He has a nice, angular style that adds a nice touch of 1980s flair to the book – it doesn’t remind me of Miami Vice, exactly, but for some reason I can’t shake that comparison (not in the coloring, but just in the way the characters are drawn and the way they “move”). Everyone has wildly cool hair, which is a lot more fun than you might think, and Eliceche does a lot of great work with body language as the characters learn what’s going on and try to deal with the situation. The book isn’t overly emotional, but Eliceche wrenches a good bit of it out of the characters, as when one character needs to kill someone he really doesn’t want to and we see it play out on his face. All the characters, naturally, are fairly attractive people, but they’re attractive in completely different ways, which is a neat trick. We get very brief glimpses of the aliens, but Eliceche makes them nice and weird and their environment just bizarre enough to be disconcerting. The violence isn’t too gory, but Eliceche does a fine job making it visceral enough to be powerful. Lidon’s colors are excellent, too – they’re not too bright, but bright enough to keep everything crisp, and when the book does get a bit dark, it doesn’t get murky. There are also some pretty cool special effects, like a stormy sky with lightning streaking across it, that aren’t drawn, definitely, but don’t intrude on the rest of the artwork. The one problem I have with the art is minor – the book takes place in a lot of different places, but when we’re in towns, Eliceche does nothing to distinguish them – one minute we’re in Sacramento and the next in Fayetteville, and there’s nothing different about them at all. It’s a very minor point, but it’s just a little bit annoying.

Things You Shouldn’t Remember is a cool comic. It has a nifty hook, interesting characters, and very good art. What’s not to dig?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

The Unstoppable Wasp volume 1: Unstoppable! by Jeremy Whitley (writer), Mark Waid (writer), Elsa Charretier (artist), Adam Kubert (artist), Megan Wilson (colorist), Sonia Oback (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Cory Petit (letterer), Caitlin O’Connell (assistant editor), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $12.99, 100 pgs, FC, Marvel.

Man, this comic. When the mouth-breathers take to their keyboards to bitch about Marvel’s “diversity” instead of admitting their racism and sexism, they could be specifically talking about this comic, and for once, I almost agree with them. It’s not a bad comic at all, but it’s annoyingly DIVERSE, to the extent that it never actually gets around too much to being compelling. Whitley made his mark writing Princeless for Action Lab, a comic my daughter enjoyed a few years ago (she’s twelve now, so who the hell knows what she likes), and it’s great that he’s writing for Marvel now. However, I bought this almost completely on the strength of Charretier’s art, because she’s amazing. She and Wilson do an excellent job bringing this comic to joyous life, as the book is beautifully detailed, which gives us both a sense of New York, where Nadia (Hank Pym’s daughter, who is now the Wasp) hangs out and recruits girls for her science-super-team, and also such odd places as the inside of a giant robot (which, I guess, isn’t too odd in a superhero comic). Charretier has a beautiful fluid line, so Nadia, who is excited beyond reason to be in New York, practically crashes against the panels as she wanders through the story. Charretier gets to draw a giant robot, a dinosaur, and a good old-fashioned hero/villain battle, and she does it superbly. She doesn’t go too nuts with innovative page designs, but she does do a few clever things to make the story flow nicely, and Wilson colors it all brightly, which matches Nadia’s mood (most of the time). This is a fun book to look at, because you can always spot fun things in the panels, like Nadia’s beaded doorway or the various small shops that Nadia passes as she walks around the city. Charretier doesn’t seem to work terribly fast, as she doesn’t seem to handle more than four issues on a monthly comic, but she’s a wonderful talent, and I hope Marvel knows what they have with her (after DC let her get away).

Whitley’s story breaks down, though, and it’s frustrating because it’s really not that bad. But the audience for this is obviously teenage girls (that’s why I bought it, natch), but no matter who the audience is, Whitley’s teeth-aching earnestness is enough to put anyone off. I have a quasi-teenage daughter (as I noted above), and I’m going to see if she wants to read this, and I’m curious as to what she’ll think. She’s a very good kid – enjoys school (for the most part), always gets her homework done, is not cruel to anyone (that I know of), spends too much time on her phone but doesn’t get sullen when I tell her to knock it off, and actually doesn’t mind hanging out with her parents (I’m losing that battle, but Mom is still in the thick of it!), and even she likes reading material that has a bit of an edge to it. This comic is sanded down to complete inoffensiveness, and I wonder if teens will really like that. Nadia is a neat character – she’s a product of the Red Room, that assassin-training facility that gave us Black Widow – so she kicks ass, but she’s also Hank Pym’s daughter, so she’s really into science. Whitley sends her on a journey to recruit other girls/women (Moon Girl is definitely a girl, but the others might be old enough to be considered “women”) to join her “Genius in Action Research Lab,” which Whitley awkwardly acronyms as “G.I.R.L.” And she’s off! And the book begins to seriously drag after a decent first issue.

Part of the problem is that this reads like a propaganda piece, which is what the mouth-breathers accuse Marvel of turning into. This is really the first time they might have a point, as it seems like Whitley read up on the underrepresentation of girls in STEM education (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and decided to write a story about that, instead of giving Nadia conflicts that are personal to her and making the story resonate that way. No one wants to consume propaganda for fun, unless it’s 80 years old and is about the dangers of marijuana, and even then, that’s done ironically. No one talks like Nadia and the others in this comic do, with Nadia (and others) going on and on about how women aren’t listed on the “smartest people in the world” list or how women should do things for themselves. (First of all, what a stupid list – the smartest people in the world. Who determines that? How is it measured? People assume that others are smart because they know hard sciences, but does Bruce Banner or Lunella Lafayette know anything about the Hanseatic League or pointillism? “Smart” people are prejudiced against liberal arts, yo!) Anyway, none of the sentiments expressed in the book are objectionable, and Whitley does some fun stuff with the characters, like Nadia knowing Mockingbird because she’s a biologist, not because she’s a superhero, but it’s done in such a heavy-handed way that the book becomes a drudging slog. Teen girls don’t want to read about how great they are anymore than old white men want to read about how great they are (well, this old white man doesn’t want that, anyway). Teen girls want to read about characters that are like them but, you know, kick motherfucking ass. That’s why the best parts of the book are when Nadia, Ms. Marvel, and Mockingbird (lots of guest stars in this book!) fight a giant robot, and when Nadia has to fight Poundcakes and Letha. It’s very nice that Whitley has Nadia desperately try to reason with Poundcakes before the fight starts, but he writes the fight in such an inventive way (which might not be unique in comics, but I don’t know because I don’t read a lot of comics with Ant-Man and Wasp in them but which is very reminiscent of the Ant-Man movie) that it’s good to see. There’s a weird delineation in this comic, too, that I’m not sure is offensive or not. Nadia tries not to fight, using it only a last resort. As someone who’s seen far too many idiotic superhero comics where fighting is the first resort, I’m all for this. But the implication is that she does it because she’s a girl, not because she’s a trained assassin and could easily kill most people she fights. That leads me to the inference that girls don’t like violence and want to read about girls talking to each other. Again, that’s not the worst thing in the world, but if we get back to my tween daughter as the only thing I can use for reference, she LOVES violence. I’m actually bummed that I can’t get her to watch some movies like Predator or Mad Max: Fury Road (which, for some reason, she simply doesn’t want to watch, but it might have to do with the fact that, as I noted above, I’m slowly falling out of favor with her) because she loves the Fast and the Furious movies. She loves “the Brock,” as she calls Dwayne Johnson, she loves “the bald guy” (Vin Diesel) and she loves “the other bald guy” (Jason Statham). She loves Schwarzenegger. She doesn’t mind movies where people talk, but that means she has to pay attention to everything, damn it, and as a iGeneration girl, she doesn’t have time for long conversations! So is Whitley writing this for teen girls, or is he writing this for adults who think they know what teen girls want to read? Beats me. I don’t know if Whitley knows any teen girls.

Man, I can go on, can’t I? Finally, this is only four issues of the regular series (with Nadia’s “origin” from All-New, All-Different Avengers tacked on so the book isn’t any thinner than it is, and it’s already “wafer-thin”), and I’m slowly getting fed up with such short trades from Marvel. DC still tends to do six-issue trades or even more, but Marvel seems to be locked into five- or even four-issue trades. I’ve moved away from single issues because of the length and the price, and even though this is priced pretty well (five issues of regular Marvel stuff would be $20, and this is $13), it’s still ridiculous how little value you really feel when you read this. Charretier’s art is a delight to behold, and Whitley actually does try to pack the comic with stuff, but it still feels weak. These 20-page comics are killing me, people!

All right, I’m done with this comic. For now. I don’t want to even think that I could be sympathetic to mouth-breathers who don’t like women taking photographs of milkshakes. I mean, what the hell, people? But I do think this comic could have been more exciting and less “You go, girls!” Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Kill Shakespeare: Juliet: Past is Prologue #1-4 by Conor McCreery (writer), Colin Howell (artist), Shari Chankahamma (colorist), Alex Lille (colorist), Chris Mowry (letterer), Shawn Lee (letterer), Toby Malone (story editor), and Tom Waltz (editor). $15.96, 100 pgs, FC, IDW.

The Law of Diminishing Returns is kicking in with the “Kill Shakespeare” series, which is too bad. The first series was really good, the second and third were good, and this one is just mediocre. I don’t know if it’s the loss of co-writer Anthony Del Col or the loss of artist Andy Belanger, but it’s probably a bit of both. McCreery and Howell give us an origin story for someone who doesn’t really need one – Juliet turned out to be the hero of the story, but getting her from her fake death over Romeo’s body (which explains how she’s still alive in this universe) to the beginning of the first story doesn’t really need to be told. She becomes the hero over the course of the first series, and this story, which simply shows how she overcomes her feelings of rage stemming from Romeo’s death, doesn’t add much. We find out how she and Othello met each other, but again, that doesn’t really matter too much. McCreery turns this into an old-fashioned revenge tale, as Juliet comes into conflict with a Veronese nobleman who now works for King Richard – the big bad in the first series – but again, there’s nothing too interesting there, as the book comes down to the old “If you kill him, you’ll lose your soul” choice that we get a lot in fiction. We also get a tiny bit of background on the rebellion against Richard that forms the main plot of the first series, but not enough to make it something worthwhile. Howell is a good artist, but he lacks the visual flair and interesting design sensibilities of Belanger, so the book looks fine but doesn’t really pop like the first two series did. Overall, it’s a perfectly okay series, but I wonder if the creators should just tap out. There’s nothing wrong with that!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

The Dregs by Zac Thompson (writer), Lonnie Nadler (writer), Eric Zawadzki (artist/letterer), Dee Cuniffe (colorist), and Danny Djeljosevic (editor). $12.99, 101 pgs, FC, Black Mask Comics.

On the back cover of this trade, The Dregs is described as “the first homeless meta noir,” which sounds about right. The comic takes place in Vancouver in the near future (the skyline is a bit more built-up than Vancouver’s currently is), but near enough that everything feels familiar. It takes place in an area called “the Dregs,” a spot just east of Gastown, which is currently not the greatest part of town and is even worse in the comic. Arnold is a homeless drug addict obsessed with Raymond Chandler who discovers that some of his friends have gone missing and goes on a fairly surreal odyssey to find out what happened to them. We know what happened to them – the opening pages of the book show men carving up a homeless man and turning him into meat that gets served at a trendy restaurant in the Dregs, which is in the process of being gentrified – so Arnold’s quest isn’t really about finding out what happened to them, but how it will affect Arnold when he finds out and if he can do anything about it.

This is a phenomenal comic, frankly, because Thompson, Nadler, and Zawadzki (who are co-creators) don’t take any easy ways out. We think the developer we meet early on, Beck Lasko, is evil, simply because he’s a businessman and businessmen in comics not named Wayne or Stark are always evil. And don’t fret – Lasko is pretty evil, but he also makes excellent points about gentrification that Arnold can’t answer. Gentrification itself is always evil in most narratives, but once again, Thompson and Nadler don’t let us get too comfortable with that notion, either, as Arnold discovers truths that he doesn’t want to deal with when he finally finds out what’s happening to his friends. They take him through the plot very carefully and deliberately, never letting us forget that he’s an addict, but also letting us see that he once was at least middle-class if not wealthy (they don’t dwell on it, but they make a quick point to that) and that he can stay coherent enough to follow the clues. But then they pull something devastating that lets us know he might not really know what he’s doing. It’s a fine line to walk, but they do an excellent job walking it. Early on, they introduce an imaginary femme fatale (and the first time we see her, it’s not even clear that she’s not real, but she ain’t), and while that might argue against Arnold’s sanity, he still makes connections that no one else is making and follows clues no one else sees. It makes the climax of the book hit harder, because we’re convinced that Arnold is going to triumph in some way, but that would mean Thompson and Nadler solve homelessness, and that’s not going to happen in this comic. There’s also the fact that he’s occasionally explicitly compared to Don Quixote, and we know how that turned out. Whether Arnold solves the case and gets the bad guy doesn’t matter, ultimately. What matters is how Arnold deals with the case and what happens to him, and Thompson and Nadler do an amazing job taking us to a crucial point in Arnold’s life. What he does with it is up to him.

Zawadzki’s art is brilliant, too, as it has some shades of Tim Sale in it and some other artist whom I thought of earlier and now forget. Dang it! Anyway, we get an idea of how good he is in the first segment, when he goes from the horror of mutilating a homeless man to the upscale restaurant in three pages and has no problem switching tones, and this continues throughout the book. Arnold and his compatriots have it rough, and Zawadzki makes them rough without ever taking away their basic humanity, so we buy Arnold as a hero even though, of course, he’s far from a traditional hero sort. His femme fatale is beautiful and classic, like an old movie, and the second time we see her, Zawadzki does a terrific job making it clear she’s not real by switching easily between Arnold’s fantasy world and the real world, with Cuniffe’s colors providing good visual cues as well. Zawadzki gives us a great sense of Vancouver, both the seedy parts and the glitzy parts, and he never forgets that it, you know, rains a whole hell of a lot in the city – the streets are almost always wet in this comic, and it affects the mood of the comic as well. I don’t know how deliberate this is, but the few times Arnold meets with Lasko, Zawadzki draws them in a way that makes you almost believe they’re the same character at different points in their lives, as if Lasko is a younger Arnold, just moving toward living on the streets himself. Given the occasionally surreal nature of the book, it’s not the worst idea in the world, but perhaps Zawadzki (and the writers) are just making the point that homeless people are far closer to us than we’d like to admit. At the end of the book, when things get even more bizarre, Zawadzki does a magnificent job showing Arnold moving through the city and then the city turning monstrous, as Arnold struggles with what he’s learned. Zawadzki does some nice things with design throughout the book, but the final few pages take it up a notch, and it’s really impressive.

I don’t know if these three people are going to work together again, but that would be keen. Based on this comic, they work really well together, and I’d be keen to see what they do next. For now, though, you can check out The Dregs, which is one of the best mini-series of the year!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World by Jill Jonnes. 416 pgs, Random House, 2003.

Jonnes shines a light (ha, I kill me) on the fierce competition between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse (Nikola Tesla was off in his own little universe) when the inventors finally harnessed the power of electricity. The book covers the last quarter of the nineteenth century, basically, as Edison and Westinghouse tried to get their systems for producing electricity – the famous AC/DC battle – into cities and towns. She goes into the long history of people trying to harness electricity (Ben Franklin and his kite make an appearance), but after the science stuff is dispensed with (and, I apologize, despite Jonnes doing a fairly decent job, I’m just not science-y enough to get most of what she was writing, although I’m fairly certain I understand the difference between direct current and alternating current, so there’s that), we get into the business dealings of these industrial titans and their allies. You know, the good stuff!

The book was published in 2003, so it pre-dated a bit the “Edison is evil, Tesla is wonderful” trope that we’ve seen in comics the past few years (I blame the Atomic Robo guys, but it’s present in a lot of places), and Jonnes wouldn’t know about that anyway, so it’s fascinating to see her present both men as, you know, geniuses and flawed human beings. Edison is fairly ruthless, but he’s also a very hard worker and brilliant inventor who hates AC for one reason only – he didn’t think of it. Tesla is a goofball, terrible at business (he sold his patents to Westinghouse to save the latter’s company, patents that would later be worth around $17 million but which, of course, he didn’t get a penny from) but brilliant at science, utterly unconcerned with AC except as a way to fund his weirder experiments in electricity, which led to him almost accidentally inventing the radio. Tesla ignored anything that might make him money, and Jonnes doesn’t have to emphasize the idea, still with us today, that genius for genius’s sake doesn’t mean much if you can’t monetize it (Tesla invented robots in 1898, but the businessmen he asked for money to fund his experiments couldn’t see the monetary value in it, so they ignored his breakthroughs). Edison might have been a jerk, but he knew how to appeal to businessmen and how to grind away until he created what he wanted. He wasted five years of his life in the mid-1890s on a factory that created iron ore, and didn’t particularly care when it went under (he, or someone else, converted it to a cement factory and kept at it). Yes, he did try to block alternating current, but not because he hated Tesla – at that point Tesla was kind of out of the game, and Edison went against Westinghouse – but because he was petulant about direct current, because he chose DC. The fact that AC was better in almost every way made no difference to Edison – he was going to take his ball and go home, damn it! It led to weird situations like the one where Edison and his allies lobbied to get electric chairs as the mode of capital punishment because they would use AC, and therefore AC would become associated with killing in the minds of the public, which backfired when the first electric chair execution went horribly, horribly wrong (I can hear Westinghouse now: “Hey, our electricity didn’t kill that guy as well as Edison would have you believe, so go AC today!”). He spent years fighting Westinghouse in court over light bulb patents just so Westinghouse wouldn’t be able to use AC. While he won that fight, AC ultimately triumphed and Edison, bitter about his wasted years on electricity, concentrated on movie-making in the early years of the twentieth century. He seemed like a swell dude.

George Westinghouse, meanwhile, is perhaps the most admirable person in the book. Despite shunning Tesla in later years, Westinghouse did give the Serbian kook a lot of work early in their relationship, and he was notable for paying good wages and taking a lot of chances on unproven technology and people (like Tesla), giving them places to work that they would have otherwise not had. Westinghouse fought hard to keep his companies away from “money men,” who would have (and eventually did) kill the spirit of innovation that Westinghouse fostered, and he was able to steer his companies through the financial straits of the mid-1890s (hey, remember when we didn’t have any government regulations on finance and depressions were regular occurrences? let’s hope we get back to those days soon!) without giving up autonomy (with, of course, the aforementioned help of Tesla, who definitely owed Westinghouse but probably not as much as the patents he held were worth). The climax of the book takes us to Niagara Falls, where Westinghouse used Tesla’s AC motor to create a hydroelectric power station. It was a testament to Tesla’s genius and Westinghouse’s work ethic (even though Westinghouse was no slouch in inventing, either), and it’s a good place to end the book, with Westinghouse, Tesla, and alternating current triumphant. Jonnes does write a lengthy afterword about the fates of the three men, with particular attention paid to Tesla (who lived longer than the other two) and his brief sojourn in Colorado Springs, where he apparently turned into David Bowie for a while, and his giant mushroom Wardenclyffe Tower in Long Island, which he apparently wanted to use to transmit broadcast signals around the world (which came crashing to an end when Marconi transmitted radio waves in 1901, trumping Tesla … even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled years later that Marconi had infringed on Tesla’s patents!). Tesla had a sad final 40 years or so of life (he was only 45 when his Wardenclyffe dream ended), but a lot of it stems from his refusal to learn how to navigate the business world. Westinghouse and Tesla, who wanted to improve the lives of everyone on the planet, are Jonnes’s obvious heroes, but it’s not like Edison is a villain – he’s just pragmatic. It makes him famous and rich, but doesn’t really endear him to fiction writers, who like strange dudes who hate women wearing pearls and fall in love with a pigeon (yes, that’s Tesla), but that’s a rant for another day!

Jonnes writes in a good, readable style, keeping things moving and making sure that both the science and the business gets their due. I love the Gilded Age (well, I wouldn’t have wanted to live during it, but I love reading about it), so this is in my wheelhouse, but it really is fascinating reading about the way new businesses get off the ground and what inventions take off and which don’t. These three men encountered plenty of failure in their lives, but they never stopped striving for more. Jonnes makes sure to remind us that inventing is not some lofty pursuit done in isolated laboratories, as we’re never far from vicious patent fights and loss of money or – in the tragic case of Tesla – a fire that destroyed his lab and burned up most of his life’s work in 1895. Empires of Light is an interesting examination of a crucial time in United States history and of the men that really changed the world, when you think of how much we owe to electricity. It’s lively and in-depth, and it turns these inventors from titans into men. Which is pretty keen.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

Real Science Adventures #1-6 by Brian Clevinger (writer), Lo Baker (artist), Wook Jin Clark (artist), Anthony Clark (colorist), Tessa Stone (letterer), Jeff Powell (letterer), and Lee Black (editor). $23.94, 132 pgs, FC, IDW.

The “Real Science Adventures” have always been a bit of a red-headed stepchild in the Atomic Robo Universe, partly because Robo himself is such a fun character and he’s noticeably missing from these stories, plus Scott Wegener doesn’t draw them, and that’s a blow. But they’re always fun stuff, and I imagine when it comes time to sit down and read every Atomic Robo comic in existence (and that time will come!!!!), they’ll fit nicely into the bigger narrative. Clevinger is a good writer, after all, and they do get decent artists to draw them, so they’re still fun to read.

This series is split into two stories – the main feature, starring the Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, runs 96 pages, while the back-up story about the Sparrow is 36 pages long. The Sparrow story is weaker, mainly because it’s hard to cram a spy story about a lone operative infiltrating a Nazi gunnery base in Normandy, getting captured, escaping and managing to blow up the base, and getting promoted at the end of the story into 36 pages and make it work really well. It’s a bit ridiculous to think that “bad-assery” is some kind of superpower, as that’s the only way the Sparrow would be able to survive all the shenanigans she gets into. Everything moves too fast, so the instant she gets captured, Clevinger has to zip through the plot – there are a lot of Nazis to kill, damn it! – and none of it feels too important. I get that it’s just a back-up story, but still.

The She-Devils story is quite good, though … so good, in fact, that George Miller has already filmed it and called it Mad Max: Fury Road. Yep, this is “Mad Max: Fury Air,” I guess, without Max. The She-Devils, who were introduced in a previous mini-series with Robo, are pirates in the Pacific in the aftermath of World War II, when the ocean entire was a lawless Wild West. But they’ve marauded so well that they’re running low on supplies, and they don’t have the airplanes to expand their sphere of marauding. So they decide to steal a big plane from Mad Jack (hey, there’s a “mad” dude!), the biggest marauder around, so they can go farther and maraud more. When they get to Mad Jack’s island, they find out he’s using Tongan women as slaves to mix a new kind of fuel that lasts longer, so the She-Devils decide to free those women and steal the plane. At the end of issue #2, they’re off, with Mad Jack and his dozens of planes on their tails, and issues #3-6 are basically a long chase scene/fight in the sky. Mad Jack’s Marauders occasionally get onto the plane, as Jack is trying to not shoot it out of the sky because he wants it and his slaves back, so he sends raiding parties close to the plane, but the She-Devils keep fighting them off. There’s even a giant storm, much like in the movie. Now, the movie was awesome, so if Clevinger wants to rip it off, more power to him, and this story is pretty exciting. Bad, worse, and worst things happen to the She-Devils as they fly – they keep getting shot at, and they have to teach the Tongan women how to shoot on the fly; they can’t outrun the Marauders; they have more range than the Marauders but they don’t think they have enough fuel to get into a relative safe zone – but they keep on keeping on, and Clevinger does a good job making the entire chase plausible even though it seems a bit ridiculous (what with the bad guys seemingly able to leap between planes with relative ease). Meanwhile, Lo Baker is a good artist, although her heavy line doesn’t leave much room for subtlety … not that she really needs it in this story too much. She does a really nice job with the chase, as she gets to draw a lot of cool planes and some neat action scenes. She draws a lot of interesting characters, giving them just enough humanity that the reader cares about their fates – even Mad Jack’s, as it turns out, as he’s a horrible person, sure, but Baker does manage to make him an actual person and not just a caricature.

This feels somewhat inessential if you’re reading Atomic Robo (which you should be; it’s amazing), but it’s nevertheless a fun comic, entertaining and with just enough real-world stakes to make you care. Sure, Clevinger patterns it after a really good movie, but plots aren’t unique, and he and Baker do some good work with the characters, which is all you can hope for when you’re reading a straight-up action comic. So that’s nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York by Greg Pak (writer), Daniel Bayliss (artist), Triona Farrell (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer), and Dafna Pleban. $19.99, 133 pgs, FC, Boom! Studios.

Someone decided to mash up Kurt Russell from Escape from New York and Kurt Russell from Big Trouble in Little China (whether it was Greg Pak himself or he’s just the guy they hired to write it), and while that might seem a recipe for disaster, Pak is a good writer, and he takes this idea and has an absolute blast with it. In 1987, Jack Burton gets sucked through a mystical portal and finds himself in Snake Plissken’s world, a few years after the events of the movie (2001, to be exact). He was accidentally summoned by Bobby Liu (who happens to look exactly like Wang Chi from BTiLC), who was trying to get Snake for a dangerous mission – they have to get from Texas to Cleveland to rescue a group inside a federal “culture bunker” (where the government stored all the culture they could before the world went to hell), specifically Bobby’s wife, Helene, and Blind Apple Mary, who’s the greatest blues singer/guitarist the world has ever seen. Jack Burton even knows who she is! Meanwhile, the ghost of David Lo Pan wants revenge on Jack, Lee van Cleef’s character from EfNY, Hauk, shows up (looking not very much like Lee van Cleef, unfortunately), and there are dozens of multi-dimensional Snake Plisskens trying to kill Jack. Yeah, it’s pretty bananas.

Pak has fun with the concept, because you really can’t not have fun with it, and he manages to give us a good contrast between the two heroes, much like Russell did in the movies – Snake is all business, while Jack is goofy, but they’re both heroes, they just do things a bit differently (Snake continually tries to claim he’s not a hero, but we know better). I really don’t want to give away too much, because a good deal of the fun of this book is seeing what Pak will come up with next, and he doesn’t disappoint. He just keeps raising the stakes on the craziness, and Bayliss and Farrell do a marvelous job keeping up with him. Bayliss’s cartoony art means that his depictions of Russell won’t be too on the nose and therefore not creepy, but we can still see the resemblance (Bobby Liu actually looks a lot more like Dennis Dun than either Jack or Snake look like Russell). Bayliss does a very good job changing their faces just enough so they’re different people who happen to look alike – he draws Jack with a slightly goofy look on his face and less facial hair, while Snake has a thicker five o’clock shadow and a permanent snarl on his face. Bayliss draws the action with verve, and he gets to draw a lot of it – again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but he’s called upon to draw a lot of big and evil-looking things, and he does it very well. His Lo Pan is excellent – he’s ghostly but also somewhat terrifying, and Ferrell colors him in eerie greens and yellows. She uses pink quite well as a visual cue, too, and it turns from a comforting color to a disquieting one nicely as the story moves along.

This is an extremely fun comic – I don’t know if it will remain so for multiple readings, but it’s wildly entertaining the first time you read it, and Pak even ends it with a tease of more stories, so perhaps that will come down the pike (Boom! is still publishing BTiLC comics, but I haven’t seen a sequel to this yet, unless I completely missed it). If you want a grand time reading a comic, you should definitely check this out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo volume 3 by a lot of different people and, um, Jim Aparo. $49.99, 549 pgs, FC, DC.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t actually read this entire thing yet. It’s 549 pages, after all (!!!), and I got to page 330 before I realized that if I read it all, I might not have time to read the rest of my stuff and review that. I don’t really need to review this, anyway – it’s 550 pages of Jim Aparo awesomeness, and while not all of it is from his run on The Brave and the Bold and is therefore not as awesome as the earlier volumes, it’s still from a time when Batman acted like an actual person and not a collection of teen Goth clichés , so it’s still pretty excellent. I just wanted to point out a few things about it:

1. The first story in the book is from Detective Comics #444-446, in which Batman kills Talia al Ghul in front of witnesses and then watches as Ra’s al Ghul frames him for his (Ra’s’s, that is) suicide. Weird, wild stuff from Len Wein, right? Those oldsters in our audience might have a vague memory of this story (it’s from 1974-75), and they might say, “Hey, Greg, that story was five issues long!” To which I’ll reply, “Why, yes, it was, but Aparo apparently didn’t draw the final two issues, so this book simply leaves them out!” Yes, it’s an art book spotlighting Jim Aparo, but they put issue #1 of The Untold Legend of the Batman in here, and Aparo only inked that (over John Byrne’s pencils), so what gives, DC? (For the record, Ernie Chan drew the final two issues, which means it probably looks pretty good.) Anyway, it’s weird.

2. Bob Haney sadly only writes four issues in this volume, but holy shit are they Bob Haney stories. The Brave and the Bold #152 features the Atom. A man proves he’s a government agent by showing Batman a tattoo on his chest of an anvil that can only be seen under ultra-violet light. Batman is attacked in a vault in Switzerland by a gang of hoodlums wearing gaucho-looking lederhosen, who don’t seem to have a name that would explain their choice of outfit and are dispatched in one page, never to be seen again. The story ends with Ray Palmer extolling his love of cheese. The Brave and the Bold #153 features Metamorpho. Batman goes looking for Rex after his girlfriend, Sapphire, gives him a check for a million dollars to do so (made out, of course, to “The Batman”). In Marseilles, a café owner gives him some cheese to give to Metamorpho (what’s up with Haney and cheese?). It saves Batman a page later when an assassin’s dart hits the cheese instead of Batman. In Istanbul, a merchant asks Batman to give Rex a lamp that looks like Aladdin’s, just because Rex is awesome. Batman’s helicopter gets knocked out of the sky by a condor that attacks it, thinking it’s a “rival.” The bad guys plan to smuggle gold across the border by building a truck out of it and painting it to look like a regular truck! The Brave and the Bold #155 features Hal Jordan. An earthquake strikes Gotham, and it turns out that a meteorite has been keeping a fault under the city from slipping, but someone has stolen the meteorite. Batman deduces that it was an alien, and he heads into space to stop him. Hal Jordan is tasked by the Guardians with the same job, because apparently stealing a rock is the worst crime in the universe. I can’t even tell you why the alien stole the rock, because it’s too goofy, but when they’re going back to Earth to replace the rock, Batman adds his willpower to Hal’s to power Hal’s ring, which hasn’t been recharged. All this over a fucking rock. Finally, The Brave and the Bold #157 features Kamandi. This is, shockingly, not the first time Batman teamed up with Kamandi, despite the fact that they live thousands of years in time apart. There’s not too much insane about this story, except for the fact that it’s Kamandi in modern-day Gotham City. Fighting for the mob. You know, like you do. If you live in Bob Haney’s world!

3. Bruce Wayne continues his long tradition of being an absolute clothes-horse in this volume, something that modern-day writers and artists are too cool to get into:

A green suit and that natty tie? Well done, Jerry Serpe!

So you should buy this, even though I’m not done reading it yet and can’t give it a complete review. And you should buy the first two volumes, as well. They’re all amazing.

Rating: Incomplete, but awesome – CHEESE SAVES BATMAN’S LIFE!!!!!

Black Hammer #7-13 by Jeff Lemire (writer), Dean Ormston (artist), David Rubín (artist/letterer), Dave Stewart (colorist), Todd Klein (letterer), Cardner Clark (assistant editor), Daniel Chabon (editor), and Brendan Wright (editor). &27.93, 154 pgs, FC, Dark Horse.

The second arc of Black Hammer is a hefty 7 issues, which is nice, as Lemire continues to explore both what’s going on in the town and what happened right before our heroes were transported there. At the end of the first arc, the daughter of Black Hammer shows up in town, and as Lucy is a journalist, she immediately starts to try to figure out what’s going on. She discovers that the town is a bit askew, as things aren’t quite completely right, while the heroes are still trying to make life work in their new world. A few surprises come at us, which is keen, because Lemire knows how to move a story along so the shocks come at good times yet there’s plenty of character development. A nice touch is that the heroes might not be quite as heroic as we think, as some of them seem to know more than the others and want to keep it that way. We end on a nice cliffhanger that promises another upsetting of the apple cart, and it’s very intriguing what might happen next.

Rubín draws two issues, and if Ormston can’t keep up, it’s nice to have Rubín on board, especially as the two issues he draws are a bit outside the main narrative – one is Talky-Walky’s origin story and the other focuses on Lucy’s life after her father died. They add to the main narrative but are a bit separate from it, so they’re good places for a guest artist. I hope Ormston can keep up with the book – his blocky, scratchy art makes the superheroes a bit creepier than we expect, which adds to the weirdness of the story itself – but if Rubín needs to step in, I hope Lemire can keep giving him stories like the ones he draws here.

Black Hammer is cool comic. I look forward to what’s coming!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Catwoman by Jim Balent volume 1 by Jo Duffy (writer), Chuck Dixon (writer), Jim Balent (penciller), Dick Giordano (inker), Ande Parks (inker), Rick Burchett (inker), Bob Smith (inker), Buzz Setzer (colorist), Bob Pinaha (letterer), and Paul Santos (collection editor). $29.99, 292 pgs, FC, DC.

Obviously, I got this because of Balent, whose work I have always liked even though once he started Tarot I lost all interest (the art isn’t quite as good and the story is truly terrible). I bought a few Catwoman comics back in the day, usually when they crossed over with Batman, so I was glad that DC has started collecting them, even though I’m sure I can find them in single issues without too much trouble. The stories are perfectly fine – they’re tied up in the whole Bane/Azrael storyline that played out in Batman comics, as in the first arc, Catwoman is working for Bane – sort of – before AzBats trashes him, and then she runs afoul of AzBats for a bit before O.G. Bats returns. Duffy does a nice job keeping the action going, but as this is not a modern, cost-cutting comic, some issues at 24 pages and they have a lot more going on in them, so even though it’s action-packed, we still get some nice character moments.

You can say what you want about Balent’s big-breasted Catwoman, but the dude knows how to draw, and the book is very fun to look at. Balent packs each page with panels and details, and it’s amazing to consider how fast he must have been working to get these issues done. His action scenes are terrific, his choreography and storytelling are excellent, and even his fashion sense, while a bit risqué for some of the ladies, works well. The most interesting thing about the art is the way his inkers change his work. Giordano does a lot of rough hatching, making Balent’s lines look a bit grittier without losing their fluidity. Giordano is the best inker in this book for Balent, and Parks, who succeeds him, is the worst. Parks doesn’t do as much hatching, and when he does, his lines are a bit too precise, so they heighten Balent’s smoothness and actually, it seems, makes the work a bit stiffer. Burchett is a fine artist in his own right, and he almost adds too much – he’s a good inker, but he seems like he almost redraws some of the work, which is weird. Smith is a bit weaker, but he strikes a decent balance between Burchett’s work and Parks’s. It’s fascinating to see, because if you didn’t know that the inkers changed from the credits, it would be obvious from the work. Still, Balent’s talent shines through nicely.

I’m not going to pretend these are great comics, but they are very entertaining and very good-looking. There’s not much else to say!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

Moon Knight volume 3: Birth and Death by Jeff Lemire (writer), Greg Smallwood (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), Caitlin O’Connell (assistant editor), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $15.99, 100 pgs, FC, Marvel.

I don’t know how long Lemire wanted to write Moon Knight or if sales weren’t great (I seem to recall Lemire saying he told the story in exactly the length he wanted, but what else is he going to say?), because while this is a good run on the title, it feels short at 14 issues, especially as Lemire decided to tackle Marc Spector’s mental illness once and for all. The series is actually quite unusual for Marvel, in that it’s almost completely interior, with no real villains unless you count the people who have Spector in a mental hospital, and it’s unclear whether they’re real or not. In this trade, Spector finally confronts Khonshu, so we get a recap of Moon Knight’s origin and some stuff with his childhood (which is a marginal retcon, but not too significant of one), and it’s fine, but it, like the other arcs, feels a bit rushed. I don’t expect a thorough examination of mental illness in a Marvel superhero book, even from someone who’s usually thoughtful like Lemire, but it still feels like it’s a bit too easy. Maybe it’s because it’s just this series, and once you get the many Moon Knight series since 2006 or so, the arc of it all (Charlie Huston was the first writer in a while to really portray Marc Spector as unhinged) will feel like this denouement is earned. I don’t know.

Still, this is a good series, even if it feel short. Marvel really didn’t need three trades for 14 issues, but that’s the way their world works these days, I guess.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

Sunflower volume 1 by Mark Mallouk (writer), Andi Ewington (adapter), Lee Carter (artist/colorist), and Eugenio Perez Jr. (colorist). $19.99, 153 pgs, FC, 451 Media.

I’m not sure what the deal is with 451 Media – I wonder if they’re yet another fly-by-night outfits that thinks making comics are a good way to get your movies made. We’ve seen a lot of those over the past 15 years or so, and very few – Legendary springs to mind, but that might be the only one – have been able to make it work. But a lot of those quasi-publishers actually came up with some decent comics, so they can keep showing up and going under, as long as they put out a few good books. (I didn’t want to look them up, but I did, and they’re Michael Bay’s media corporation. Don’t let that dissuade you from trying their comics!)

Sunflower is an interesting comic that I knew very little about when I ordered it. I knew it was about a woman whose husband and daughter were killed ten years ago but who gets a postcard that makes her think her daughter is still alive. That’s pretty much it, so I wasn’t sure what the deal was. I didn’t know that her husband was killed by a cult and she thinks her daughter has been living in this cult for a decade, but that’s where the book goes. CJ Pierce gets a postcard with her daughter’s nickname – “Sunflower” – written on it, and she decides that that’s enough proof that her daughter is still alive. She heads out to Blythe, California (she lives in Upland, it appears, which I’ve never been to but seems a bit more rural in the comic than it appears in real life), which is … well, if you’ve never been there, it’s bleak. It’s right across the Colorado from Arizona, and you drive through it on the way to L.A., and it’s not really a place you feel any inclination to stop in (assuming you’ve already gassed up in Quartzsite in AZ, which is still bleak but at least you can stock up at the gem and mineral stores). The people in Blythe have no interest in helping her, as even the sheriff seems scared of the cult leader, a dude named Rush Bridge, and his minions. CJ, however, is undeterred, and she decides the best way to find out what’s going on is to join the cult. That sounds smart.

I didn’t know this was the first part of a story (I thought it was a six-issue story), so it doesn’t really end in a satisfactory manner – CJ goes through an initiation and enters the cult, but I’m not going to tell you if she finds her daughter or not. It’s a harrowing journey that takes her through Death Valley (which is not really near Blythe, so I’m not entirely sure why the cult spends time in the area of the town) and through a creepy initiation ritual, and CJ embraces it as much as she can. Mallouk and Ewington do a good job letting the story flow slowly and wordlessly, as CJ has to travel a dark road to get into the cult, and then she has to go even deeper to prove she belongs. It’s a harrowing book, made more so by the landscape, which is nicely rendered by Carter. Central and eastern California can be a bleak place, and we get a sense of both the harshness of the natural landscape and the dire straits in which so many people live, which is why the allure of a cult is so tempting. What we don’t get is a good idea of the cult itself – they seem to have some affinity for ancient Egyptian gods, but Rush Bridge seems like a standard-issue bully, with no charisma that cult leaders should have, and we don’t get any sense of what they want. For right now, this is about CJ’s journey into the cult, so I assume in the coming arcs we’ll get more about the cult itself, but if the cult goes around murdering people and kidnapping people, we should have a sense of why they’re so scary that the law doesn’t go after them.

I’m curious about where the story is going, because it doesn’t feel like a regular “cult” story, mainly because CJ joins them. That might be a terrible idea, but it’s not a bad place to go for good fiction, so I’ll have to get the next trade to find out what’s going on. I don’t know how long that will take (their web site doesn’t have any issues past #6, which is the final one in this collection), so we’ll see. If they simply turn it into a movie without finishing it as a comic, I might be peeved.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios. 364 pgs, Penguin Books, 2005.

When I was but a lad, I wasn’t terribly interested in math and science. In high school, I was good at them, but I was never that interested in them. Now, I’m kicking myself for not being more interested in them, because now I’m fascinated by physics, math, and chemistry. So I read about them, but I don’t quite get the concepts as much as I’d like, because I don’t have the grounding in them that I should. Still, I like math and science a lot more now than I used to. Which is why I buy books like this one.

This is basically a rudimentary physics textbook with superheroes thrown in to make it more fun. Kakalios, who is obviously a comics fan, has a fun, almost goofy style of writing (he’s very self-deprecating about physicists) that makes it easy to read, even though I still don’t understand all the concepts. It’s that I actually do have a hard time, conceptually, with physics and even math – I can comprehend the idea of negatively charged electrons and positive protons and electron orbits and whatnot, but when it comes to practical applications, I start to founder. But this is still a fun book.

Kakalios uses good examples of superhero writers using physics more or less correctly (he grants them “miracle-exceptions” to explain how all these radioactive Marvel characters, for instance, aren’t dead), starting with Superman leaping tall buildings in a single bound (which leads him to speculate about what kind of planet Krypton is, really). He proves that Spider-Man really did kill Gwen Stacy, and he shows how Magneto is able to fly. He explains how Sue Richards is able to see when she’s invisible, which smart-ass writers have insisted for years that she can’t do, and he spends some time showing the big mistakes comics make with regard to physics. It’s all very interesting, even if about half of it went over my head. I did learn that we should not speak of people weighing such-and-such kilograms, because kilograms are a measure of mass, not weight, and if want to use the metric system for out weight, we should use newtons. Knowledge is awesome!

I don’t have much to say about this book, sadly. If you want to know more about physics (which is how the entire universe works, after all), this is a good book to use, because it’s not only very informative, it’s fun to read about the various superheroes and Kakalios has a good sense of humor. Physics is PHUN, yo!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆


I don’t have much to say, non-comics-wise. A person I’m friends with on Facebook wonders why stupid liberals think the laws against drug use have failed but they want more gun laws, and he’s someone who claims to be a Christian and is actually a fairly decent human being, but he can’t see past his ingrained political beliefs. Bill O’Reilly says that the Las Vegas shooting is the “price of freedom,” and while I don’t like to wish harm on anyone, I would like O’Reilly to get shot in a way that paralyzes all his limbs and damages his brain such that he can’t really think but is still aware of what happened to him, and then have someone ask him if he’s happy paying that price. What a fucking douchebag. The Bulbous Baboon-in-Charge is yelling at the mayor of a destroyed American city because she dared beg for help from him and tell him that, no, things aren’t as great as he claims they are in her town. And while I’m not the hugest fan of Tom Petty, it’s a bit of a bummer that he peaced out. He’s going to hang out with Roy Orbison and George Harrison and Prince somewhere.

Of course, as good as “Free Fallin'” is (and it’s good), if I heard it one more time in 1989 I was going to tear my hair out. Talk about heavy rotation. Sheesh.

The world is certainly not worse than it used to be (well, except for the fact that we’re determined to kill it), but we can find things out a lot faster than we used to, and we know a little bit about a lot more, which is dangerous. Right now we’re dealing with our 12-year-old daughter, who knows just enough about the world to get in trouble, and it’s really frustrating. She’s a good kid, and she’s not doing anything very awful, but she knows a lot more than I’d like her to, just because it’s difficult for kids to process a lot of what they discover, and it makes them a bit crazy. That’s the world in general. I’d rather live now than any time in history (well, except for the fact that we’re determined to kill the planet, as I noted), but it’s tough getting overwhelmed by the shit that has always existed but is now on television and social media all the fucking time. I don’t own a smartphone – I have an old POS cell phone that texts and calls and that’s it – because I spend a lot of time on-line at home, and when I go out, I like being disconnected from everything. I can actually have conversations with other humans, which, I know, is pretty shocking. One of these days I’m going to have to get a smartphone, and I’m not looking forward to it. And get off my lawn!

Let’s take a look at The Ten Most recent Songs On My iPod (Which Is Always On Shuffle):

1. “Guilty Filthy Soul” – Awolnation (2011). “Look at who you’re hating, now you’re celebrating”
2. “The Seeker” – Steve Earle (2004). “And the first answer follows the first question asked”
3. “In and Out of Love”1 – Bon Jovi (1985). “One endless night of fantasy is all she left of her with me”
4. “Tether” – Indigo Girls (2004). “You can bury the past, but it’s a mausoleum, with the ghost of a fist that won’t let us be”
5. “The Standing Still” – Chumbawamba (2000). “Who said the story had to end this way?”
6. “Stigmata” – Ministry (1988). “My favorite weapon is the look in your eyes”
7. “This Is Your Life” – Godfathers (1989). “I’m gonna make it on my own, gonna take a ride into the great unknown”
8. “Fearless” – Fish (1993)2. “You pick the place and I’ll choose the time, and I’ll climb the hill in my own way”
9. “Edge of the World” – Faith No More (1989). “You can trust me, I’m no criminal, but I’d kill my mother to be with you”3
10. “S.I.M.P. (Squirrels in My Pants)” – 2 Guys in the Parque (2009). “Yeah, proletariat and bourgeoisie, baby you don’t need an academic degree, everybody smellin’ my potpourri!”4

1 Remember when wearing overalls with no shirt underneath was an acceptable fashion choice? This video sure does!

2 This is a cover of the Pink Floyd song from 1971. I like it because I like covers that are different enough from the original to be almost original in their own right. The original is more folksy, while Fish’s is more anthemic. Both are quite good.

3 One of the creepiest songs I’ve ever heard, and that’s saying a lot!

4 Of course I don’t have a “Phineas and Ferb” song on my iPod! I have TWO “Phineas and Ferb” songs on my iPod!

Finally, is this the future Mrs. Travis Pelkie? I think it is!

Have a great day, everyone! If you’re interested in any of the books I reviewed, feel free to click on the Amazon link below and order them, because then I get a teeny-tiny bit of it! Even if you don’t want these books and you’re looking for, I don’t know, a nose-hair trimmer (I love mine!), use the link below and I still get a teeny-tiny percentage! Yay capitalism!


  1. tomfitz1

    You know, I really like this blog, not just because of all the reviews (and complaints), but those crazy and insane and sexy gifs!

    The brunette must be Jennifer Connoly, as I recognize those eyebrows at any age, but not the movie.

    I’m guessing that redhead/brunette is Claire Danes.

    I don’t know who Porky (Polka) Pig is.

    That must be Eva something as the Mummy.

    The cheering blonde is ? Buffy?

    The giant weiner on steroids – not going there,

    Tiny robot walking on Bettie Page – Travis must be besides himself with envy!!!

    James Volk being chased by a female hybrid.

    The 2 redheads (Lipstick Lesbians?) Gawd, I hope so!

    Travis’ future wife is perfect for him, unless she hates comics!

    Las Vegas shooting is a senseless tragedy (2 of the 4 Canadians are from my province). Does it not seem like some sort of macabre competition going on? Like who can rack up the highest body count?

    I wish these killers and wannabes would be stopped before the carnage begins!

    Stay safe and keep outta trouble!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: Yes, that’s Jennifer Connelly. I can’t remember which movie it is.

      The redhead and cheering blonde are just random people, not famous. Sorry!

      I can’t remember the mummy chick. Craig Yoe posts a lot of old photos on his Facebook feed and I just steal them.

      The two redheads are Julie Newmar and Tina Louise. Come on, man! 🙂

      I wouldn’t be surprised if these dudes start shooting with the intent to raise the stakes on others that came before them, which is just depressing. Sigh.

  2. frasersherman

    “Nadia knowing Mockingbird because she’s a biologist, not because she’s a superhero”
    Back when Marvel had Doc Savage rights in the Bronze Age, they did a Marvel Team-Up with Spidey. I thought it was a mistake that he remembers Doc as a proto-superhero rather than a genius scientist.

  3. Simon

    – “Things You Shouldn’t Remember volume 1 […] $19.99, 110 pgs”

    Priced to fail? (The ever-widening chiasm between mainstream GNs at 5-to-10 cents a page of solid storytelling vs. DM serials at 15-to-20 cents a page of 3-panel padding.)

    – “a group of aliens decided to edit those things out of existence.”

    Those aliens were wisely left out of the ad. Too bad they weren’t also left out of the book? (The cover evoked Matt Kindt, but he’d actually explore the core idea, ala MIND MGMT VOL. 1, sans generic filler.)

    – “this is nowhere near the end of the story”

    “(W) Luis Roldan (A/CA) Mariano Eliceche

    “Dozens of people from all across the United States suddenly find themselves recalling random things: song lyrics, places, and events that seem to have been erased from both collective memory and recorded history. Fearing the spread of a virus-like plague, a mysterious group known as “The Handlers” is tasked with hunting and destroying those who recollect. But, does the end justify the means? And what if you were the one whose mind was unwittingly filled with things you shouldn’t remember? Things You Shouldn’t Remember serves up a cocktail of adventure, horror, and humor in a story that will keep you guessing… and make you wonder if your own memories should be trusted. (STL051382) SC, 7×11, 128pgs, FC SRP: $19.99” (June Previews)

    So, Darby Pop are peddlers of unfinished Vol. 1s baited as GNs, with ads concealing dumb premises, and prices for DM suckers? That’s good to know.

    – “I didn’t know this was the first part of a story”

    “(W) Mark Mallouk (A/CA) Lee Carter

    “Ten years ago CJ’s husband and nine year-old daughter were murdered off a desert highway near the California/Arizona border. Since that day, CJ can feel only two things — paralyzing shame for not being with her family and quiet fury that the perpetrators were never found. CJ should have been there to defend her family. CJ should have been there to die with her family. And, in the decade since, she might as well have been dead. Until the day a letter arrives. There’s no return address, only one word appears on the letter. It simply reads: Sunflower. CJ’s daughter is alive. And now so is CJ. And she will stop at nothing to get her daughter back. (STL055527) SC, 7×10, 176pgs, FC SRP: $19.99” (July Previews)

    So, 451 Media too are crooks to avoid? That’s good to know.

    – “now I’m fascinated by physics, math, and chemistry. So I read about them, but I don’t quite get the concepts as much as I’d like, because I don’t have the grounding in them that I should”

    Of course, there are now plenty of free sites to reground yourself. And I don’t mean the online Feynman Lectures, but more interactive and less schooley stuff. For instance, the madcap physics of the XKCD guy at What If:

    * “TOASTER VS. FREEZER: Would a toaster still work in a freezer?” @ https://what-if.xkcd.com/155/

    * “LAVA LAMP: What if I made a lava lamp out of real lava? [Asked by a 6th-grade teacher.] / This is a surprisingly reasonable idea, by What If standards. / I mean, it’s not that reasonable. At the very least, I’m guessing you would lose your teaching license, and possibly some of the students in the front row. But you could do it. […]” @ http://what-if.xkcd.com/122/

    * “SHIPS: How much would the sea level fall if every ship were removed all at once from the Earth’s waters? […] Marine fish biomass dropped by 80% over the last century, which – taking into consideration the growth rate of the world’s shipping fleet – leads to an odd conclusion: Sometime in the last few years, we reached a point where there are, by weight, more ships in the ocean than fish.” @ http://what-if.xkcd.com/33/

    * “YODA: How much Force power can Yoda output? […] At current electricity prices, Yoda would be worth about $2/hour. […] But with world electricity consumption pushing 2 terawatts, it would take a hundred million Yodas to meet our demands. All things considered, switching to Yoda Power probably isn’t worth the trouble—though it would definitely be green.” @ http://what-if.xkcd.com/3/

    Or Better Explained, such as his visual intros to…

    * Numbers (math as brain software, number systems as bugfixes) @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/a-quirky-introduction-to-number-systems/
    * Arithmetic (operations as types of transformations) [1 of 12] @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/rethinking-arithmetic-a-visual-guide/
    * Prime numbers (primes as chemical formulas) @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/another-look-at-prime-numbers/
    * Pytagorean theorem (large = medium + small) @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/surprising-uses-of-the-pythagorean-theorem/
    * e^x exponentials (e as base rate of growth) [1 of 6] @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/an-intuitive-guide-to-exponential-functions-e/
    * Imaginary numbers (i as half a 180° rotation) [1 of 7] @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/a-visual-intuitive-guide-to-imaginary-numbers/
    * e^i exponentials (i as sideway growth, continuous rotation) [5 of 7] @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/intuitive-understanding-of-eulers-formula/
    * Calculus [1 of 11] @ http://betterexplained.com/articles/a-gentle-introduction-to-learning-calculus/
    * Cheat sheet @ http://betterexplained.com/cheatsheet/

    Or the wealth of no-maths particle physics primers @ https://profmattstrassler.com/

    (Not to mention Larry Gonick’s series of CARTOON GUIDEs to science stuff. Or you could always glean stuff from pop-science news sites such as https://www.sciencenews.org/ or the fast-and-fun http://www.iflscience.com/ and http://www.sciencealert.com/ — a fascinating article can sometimes spur you into digging deeper into its basics because you now have some concrete reason to learn them, unlike at school.)

    1. Greg Burgas

      Simon: Cynical as ever! As you know, I don’t review things with an eye on the price. I do that in the Previews posts, but once I get them, I stick to the content! But yeah, it would have been nice to know that those were volumes 1 of X. I don’t think it would have deterred me from getting them, but it would have been nice to know.

      You think I have all the time in the world to catch up on physics and math?!?!?!? Thanks for the links!

    1. Greg Burgas

      Travis: I figured you’d like her.

      I’m surprised FNM isn’t in the Hall of Fame. They seem to have the right amount of popularity and street cred for the Hall.

  4. frasersherman

    Just reserved Empire of Light at the library. I get very tired of Tesla/Edison = Jesus/Antichrist, this should help with that.
    Total agreement on Jim Aparo’s awesomeness. Rereading my comics, I’ve seen a lot of it the past year or so (I won’t buy the book because I have too much of it already).

  5. frasersherman

    I wonder if Things You Shouldn’t Remember is partly inspired by the belief there was a Shazaam movie with Sinbad in the 1990s and that this truth has been repressed by Sinister Powers.

  6. Eric van Schaik

    Man, where is your love for pigs? So sad to see him slide. 🙁

    I have a feeling DC will make there trades shorter. All Star Batman TPB 2 is just 5 issues. We’ll see if it’s an exception.

    I just recently watched Big trouble in Little China with my youngest kids. For them is was a manga as a live-action movie. Together with The Thing my favorite Kurt Russell movies.

    Amen about Atomic Robo. Great taste you have sir.

    I listened to your listed songs.
    Ministry is good. Fear (is big business) is my personal favorite.
    I was surprised by The Godfathers. I will check them out.
    But Bon Jovi??? Come on!! I thought better of you 🙂

    My recent top 10 in random order:
    Mintzkov – Weapons (nice Belgium band)
    Oceansize – An old friend of the christies (great instrumental)
    Sing-Sing – Tegan (old Lush band member)
    And also the trees – Simple Tom and the ghost of Jenny Bailey (I once had to go the Belgium to see them)
    New Model Army – Nothing touches
    Muse – New born (from there only good album, YMMV)
    Anneke van Giersbergen – Slow me down
    Star one – Two plus two equals five (the entire album are songs from dystopian SF-movies)
    Tame Impala – Apocalypse dreams
    Radiohead – there there

    Very sad about the shootings.
    It would have been a disaster if the man had a silencer. I thought they want to make them easier accesable. How many more would have been killed.
    Glad that most gun killings in Holland are between criminal gangs.
    Wanting to own guns is not in our dna.
    Today I heared that the greatest christian political party in Holland is against the Kinderpardon (ChildPardon in english). I can’t wrap my head around it.
    So you see, not only you have nutcases in gouverment.

      1. Eric van Schaik

        @ Simon. A miracle indeed.
        Maybe Greg becomes a fan too. 🙂
        Hopefully they come to Holland in the future although there music doesn’t sell well here unfortunately.

          1. Eric van Schaik

            Bummer man. 🙁
            The only time I saw them in Holland was in 2007.
            In 1993 I drove to Brussels (without a map of the city!) but by blind luck I parked the car 6 blocks from the place were they we’re playing. A thermodynamical miracle!

            We’re cool guys who appreciate good comics AND good music :).

    1. Greg Burgas

      Eric: I don’t mind pigs, but come on, sliding pig is hilarious.

      BON JOVI IS AWESOME!!!! I can’t really defend them, but I loved them when I was younger, and they were the first band I saw in concert, and I will always have a soft spot for them. I can’t help it!

      I’m glad you’re listing your songs; I haven’t listened to them yet (from this month or last), but I will definitely do so, because then maybe I’ll have some new stuff to listen to! 🙂

      1. BOO on Bon Jovi! They played a concert in my area recently, and came to the show late because pretty boy didn’t want to be in the area any sooner than he had to, and so his plane from New Jersey was delayed for weather or something. People were waiting for hours after the end of the local golf tournament for the start of the show. Prima donna.

        Also, his music sucks. There’s that. God, they’re going in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame before Faith No More, aren’t they? FUUUUCK!

        1. Greg Burgas

          Travis: I think you should see someone about your deep-seated hatred of Bon Jovi. It ain’t healthy, man.

          That is a douchey move, though. When I saw them in concert, he talked too much and we kept yelling at him to sing more. Cinderella opened for them and they were awesome.

        2. Eric van Schaik

          I’m with you Travis. I see them as fake rock. Just pretty hair.

          My first concert was Judas Priest with Saxon as the opening act. This was 14 february 1981 (thanks internet). My father drove me to the concert. Two awesome bands at the time.
          I have always been a hardrock/metal guy. Later on I discovered orher music. Funny that Simon and Andrew also like AATT which is totally different from most stuff I like.
          What was your first concert?

  7. Simon

    “Green is the sea / And also the trees”


    Doesn’t the 24th Law of Thermodynamics state that 3+ AATT fans in one place mean an upcoming concert? [reference needed] Or maybe AATT were right about their music being listened to by people from very different spectrums and seeing that as an achievement? [+]


    “In Japan, we had always had a real audience since we started. As for Eastern Europe, it was different. One evening we found ourselves playing in front of students who had never heard of us, but then they said we enjoyed the concert very much. It’s frustrating to say that there are people of all generations all over the world who could enjoy our music but do not know us because there is no promotion of our albums in their country.” [+]


    Should you try Eric’s 1988 AATT song, you may think, “Joy Division wannabes.” But they’ve been reinventing themselves every other album. Not unlike Miles Davis or Nils Petter Molvær, Pink Floyd or King Crimson, Radiohead or Coil, they have very divergent eras and styles.

    Considering your fondness for Marillion and Abba (and Bon Jovi!), you may also like to explore the openers and closers of very different albums from other decades?

    * 1992’s GREEN IS THE SEA (cinematic and romantic rock)
    * 1996’s ANGELFISH (after David Lynch’s 1950s blues/rock)
    * 2003’s FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH (maybe “rural post-rock”)

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.