Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

What I bought, read, watched, or otherwise consumed – August 2023

They say the prostitutes are the most beautiful in Africa. But then that’s what they say in Conakry and Douala and Lomé too. It seems an odd claim to fame (Marq de Villiers and Sheila Hirtle, from Into Africa)


The Approach by Jeremy Haun (writer), Jason A. Hurley (writer), Jesús Hervás (artist), Lea Caballero (artist), Brett Weldele (colorist), and Ed Dukeshire (letterer). $17.99, 110 pgs, Boom! Studios.

I guess the theme of this month is “Comics That Are Good Ideas But The Execution Is Lacking A Bit,” and we’ll start with The Approach, which is a fairly standard horror story that’s fairly entertaining but is kind of forgettable. We have a small airport somewhere (it’s in the States, but other than that, we don’t know much about the location) that’s being hit by a huge blizzard, and our hero, Mac, has to go into work and help out. A plane comes in and the passengers are stranded, of course, and then another, small plane comes in without a flight plan and crashes on the runway. They get the pilot out, but then they find out the plane actually disappeared 27 years ago. Well, that ain’t good. Of course there’s a monster, so this is basically “Alien”-in-a-Snowed-In-Airport, which is fine, but that’s all it is (there’s even a quasi-Paul Reiser character!). There’s one small surprise with the story, but it unfolds pretty much how you expect, which isn’t horrible, but it’s just kind of there. The art is nice and scratchy and grungy, and the monster is definitely weird, so there’s that. Other than that, it’s a decent horror story, but it doesn’t offer much else. C’est la vie.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, then, stop doing it!

Astronaut Down by James Patrick (writer), Rubine (artist), Valentina Briški (colorist), Carlos M. Mangual (letterer), and Mike Marts (editor). $17.99, 101 pgs, AfterShock.

This is an interesting comic in which astronauts are sent, not into space, but into other realities, because there’s a strange “reality cancer” destroying the world and they’re pretty sure they can find a way to stop it in a different reality. Douglas, our hero, turns out to be the only person who can survive the trip, and he ends up in a different reality that has stopped the plague … and one in which his wife is still alive, which causes him a bit of a moral dilemma. Should he stay with his newly alive wife (in a Source Code thing, the consciousness of the “Douglas” he “jumps” into is wiped out) or should he try to send the cure back, which apparently will kill him? (It’s complicated.) His own reality has some fail-safes in place to keep him on mission, and when he explains things to his newly alive wife, he doesn’t get the reception he expects, and he has some issues. Patrick does a decent job with the ethical conundrums, but not quite as well with the drama of it, because the weird reality cancer doesn’t make for a good … villain, I guess, although that’s not the best word for it. It’s awful and horrific, sure, but due to the constraints of the comic’s length, we don’t really get into the cost of it before launching Douglas into another reality, so when he meets that reality’s version of his wife, Patrick has to do a lot of heavy lifting to make it emotionally powerful for Douglas, and he doesn’t quite nail it. When Douglas figures out a workaround to his “I will die if I send the information” and then ends up in another reality, it becomes a bit frustrating, because, like the Marvel Multiverse, it doesn’t feel like there are consequences to actions because you can just go to a different reality (although Douglas, so far, is the only one to survive the trip). It’s an interesting idea that doesn’t quite cohere, which is too bad. Oh well!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s probably not good

The Avengers: War Across Time by Paul Levitz (writer), Alan Davis (artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $17.99, 120 pgs, Marvel.

This is an odd comic that doesn’t quite hit, because it’s so unfocused that it just feels like a vehicle to allow Alan Davis to draw a lot of cool shit, which it very well could be and is not the worst excuse in the world for a comic to exist. Davis is excellent here, as he usually is, but his art is also interesting, because of the digital revolution in comics. As I’ve noted before, some old-school artists seemed to have trouble transitioning to a digital universe – they might have stayed with paper and ink, but colorists were moving to digital, and some of the older artists didn’t seem to work well with shading and rendering, and Davis seemed to be one of them. Some of his work from 10-15 years ago looked far too slick and polished, losing some of its soul, and it was frustrating as a reader and must have been frustrating for an artist. Davis has always been a smooth artist, but back in the day, when Mark Farmer was inking him a lot and the colorists were grounded in the real world, his art struck a nice balance between smooth and rough, making his beautiful, curvy lines feel a bit heftier. When inking went the way of the dodo and colorists were able to use digital gradients, that heft was lost for a while, and Davis’s art began to look far too unreal, and it was a bit depressing. However, with advances in digital coloring, many of those older artists – those who are still working or, you know, alive – have begun to see their art look “right” again, because good colorists are able to add more nuance to the hues and, I imagine, the artists have been able to adjust as well. I don’t know how digital Davis is these days, but his lines are a bit thicker and heavier (not to the point where they’re “un-Davis-like,” but still) and he’s using more chunks of black, perhaps to offset the rendering you get with digital coloring. Rosenberg is a very good colorist, too, so her shading is more subtle and subdued than what we saw when digital coloring was newer, and you’ll notice a lot of comics these days, especially with artists who began their careers long before digital coloring, look more “old-school” than they did a decade ago. Davis gets to draw the Avengers, of course, but he also gets to draw some future iterations of the team (well, future for them – it’s the 1960s Avengers, so they’re seeing characters we know well but they don’t know yet), and he has a lot of fun doing it. It’s good to see that the digital technology seems to have reached a point where the art doesn’t look so computerized that you almost don’t believe a human had anything to do with it. Stand down, Skynet!

Levitz’s story is weird, though, as I noted. It’s the 1960s (they never say that, but it takes place right after Avengers #11, so there’s that), and Kang, undaunted by his defeat in issue #11, is still plotting against the team, as he says he needs to use the late 20th century on Earth as a granary to feed his troops – I mean, that’s kind of a new one, I guess, but Levitz doesn’t do too much with it. So he tries to weaken the Avengers by sending a robot Hulk against them (which is just a repeat of Avengers #11, when he sends a robot Spider-Man), and then, in a seemingly unrelated moment, the Avengers accidentally bring Sindri, the dwarf king and the dude who crafted Thor’s hammer, to Earth (actually, it was really Willie Lumpkin’s fault, but let’s blame the Avengers anyway). Then they spend most of the book fighting Sindri until the final issue, when Kang gets them to his time, and they … don’t really have much of a fight, actually. Kang punks out way too easily, and everyone goes on with their lives. it’s a weird story, in other words. The fight with not-Hulk is well done, and even the Sindri fight is decent, because he’s a lot smarter than the Avengers give him credit for and he can hold onto Thor’s hammer even though he’s obviously not worthy, but there’s really not much of a Kang plot and there’s definitely not a “war across time.” It’s very odd. I really do believe this is just an excuse so Alan Davis can draw cool shit. If so, mission accomplished!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Janet is horny for the entire series, which makes sense considering she’s the only woman on a team full of hunks, but come on, Levitz, give her something to do, man!

Black Cloak #1-6 by Kelly Thompson (writer), Meredith McClaren (artist), Becca Carey (letterer), and Charles Beacham (editor). $24.94, 175 pgs, Image.

I mention it all the time, but I’ll mention it again: I’m totally in the bag for Kelly, because Kelly is awesome, so I never really know how objective I can be with her work. I try, but I’m pre-disposed to like it, so who knows. I can say that I think she’s one of the best writers working today, but can you trust me? That’s for you to decide!!!! I will say that Black Cloak, despite being awesome, doesn’t have the most original plot. I don’t want to give it away, but it’s the kind of thing we’ve seen a lot, but I don’t really care, because plots are hard, and there simply aren’t too many spins you can put on them to keep them fresh. Kelly gives us a cop drama in a fantasy world (the police wear black cloaks. hence the title), which is the kind of thing I love, and she does a very good job with creating the world and giving us a bunch of interesting characters – Kelly’s strength has always been her dialogue, and she does a wonderful job with that here, revealing the characters and their personalities slowly, through how they interact with each other, so that the world they inhabit slowly comes into focus. It’s a world where there was an apocalyptic war some centuries before, and Kiros, the only city left, now exists in a fragile, semi-peaceful state, as long as no one shakes the status quo. Of course, Phaedra Essex, our protagonist, has no problem poking at the status quo, as she’s investigating two murders that hit very close to home for her. So the set-up is one of a million cop stories – the damaged detective, working a case that’s personal for them, ignoring the consequences of their actions, but Kelly is so good at creating characters, and the fact that humans form a small percentage of the characters in this book, so we get mermaids and fairies and other interesting things, which makes the somewhat clichéd circumstances of the story work better, because while we recognize the tropes, Kelly can tweak them a little to fit her world. She has classism in this book, of course, which works better in a world where there is definitely a ruling class who, it can be argued, might actually be better than the ruled (in our world, it’s a bit harder to make that argument), and there’s even speciesism, which Kelly can and does use as a metaphor (as we all know, genre fiction – especially science fiction and fantasy – can be wonderful places to explore real-world issues through metaphors), but it’s also a pretty good mystery, which is nice, and it ends ambiguously, which is also nice. I don’t want to say the plot doesn’t matter, because it does, but it doesn’t matter as much as the characters, and for me, at least, that’s always a good thing.

Meanwhile, McClaren continues to show why she’s just so damned good at things. She gives us Kelly’s world, a beautiful and somewhat strange place, with waterfalls flowing through it (another metaphor, but not a bad one) and weird little neighborhoods and so many odd creatures that I imagine McClaren had a lot of fun designing. McClaren has gotten a bit more detailed in her faces, so her characters’ emotional responses to things are more severe, which is not a bad thing. McClaren has become more confident in making some backgrounds a bit more abstract, which highlights the details that she wants us to focus on, and she does a wonderful job embedding Kelly’s script in a realistic-looking world (obviously, it’s fantasy, but even in fantasy, the world has to make sense, and McClaren makes sure it does). The only nitpick I have is with the big fight at the end – McClaren has never been the most action-oriented artist, which is fine for the most part, because the individual panels are fine, but her choreography and storytelling is the tiniest bit hinky, making a big emotional moment have a bit less impact because, as a reader, it’s a bit confusing where everyone is, which is important. Re-reading it, it lands better because you’re able to parse it out, but on a first read, it’s a bit wonky. I even hate writing that because McClaren is such a superb person (I still haven’t met Kelly in person, unfortunately, but McClaren lives in Phoenix, so I see her at the local convention and occasionally at comic store events), but I have to. Dang it. Still, the art is terrific for the rest of the arc, and two or three confusing pages is not going to ruin it for anyone unless you really want it to.

Black Cloak has a ton of potential to be a long-running series, and Kelly promises more soon, but we shall see. Despite the ambiguity, this arc does tell a complete story, and if we never get any more, it’s a good read on its own. I hope for more, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

But … you’ll look fabulous!

Bunny Mask volume 2: The Hollow Inside by Paul Tobin (writer), Andrea Mutti (artist/colorist), and Taylor Esposito (letterer). $17.99, 96 pgs, AfterShock.

This sequel is a bit odd, because it’s a bit disjointed, which Tobin often does because he’s interested in some tangents in the plot, sometimes more than the main plot, but he’s good enough to make it interesting despite the herky-jerky nature of the story. It seems that the main narrative is going to be about a creature that roams around eliminating people who have quasi-suicidal thoughts – maybe just ones in which they vaguely think how empty life is for a moment, but this thing picks up on that – and not only kills them, it erases any memory of their past existence, which is extremely freaky, if you ask me. We think there’s going to be a big confrontation with our titular “heroine,” but it never really gets to that, and this creature – “The Hollow” – is not as important as we think it is. Tobin is more interested in what someone can do to stave it off, and that’s where the story gets its heft, as the Hollow focuses in on Tyler, the main dude from the first series, who’s acting weird around Bee, whom he clearly digs … it’s a whole thing. Bunny Mask is still wandering around being odd, and the book becomes more about how we attain things and whether we’re worthy of them and what we do to convince ourselves we’re not and what we do to avoid responsibilities. It is, unfortunately, a bit too short (only four issues), and Tobin introduces a subplot that leads us to the next arc, which is fine, but he does it in kind of an awkward manner, and then there’s AfterShock’s apparent douchiness to deal with, but overall, this is a solid horror-adjacent story. It’s not quite straight horror, but Tobin is good enough to have horror elements while still telling a humanistic story. Plus, Mutti is a good artist. It’s all good!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s just rude

A Calculated Man by Paul Tobin (writer), Alberto Alburquerque (artist), Mark Englert (colorist), and Taylor Esposito (letterer). $17.99, 96 pgs, AfterShock.

This Tobin book is better than Bunny Mask, as Tobin gives us a clever crime drama that doesn’t go where you think it’s going to go, which is fun. Jack Beans is a math genius who worked as a mob accountant, but he decided to testify against them and go into Witness Protection. One day he’s recognized, and he realizes he’s going to have to get them before they get him, and he uses his astonishing math skills to do so. One U.S. Marshal, Omaha Avery, is training his replacement, Elene Santos, which is the device Tobin uses to fill us in on Jack’s background, as Avery is telling Santos all about him. Meanwhile, Jack is cyber-dating a woman to whom he tells the truth about what he’s doing, but of course she thinks he’s joking around, and eventually, he’s going to have to meet her and tell her. Avery and Santos find out that Jack is going around killing gangsters, but they can’t do anything about it because Jack is too smart. So they have to figure out what they’re going to do about that.

It’s a clever set-up, because Jack really is that smart, so he’s always ten steps ahead of everyone else and it’s fun seeing how Tobin sets everything up just so Jack can execute his plans (and some gangsters, too). Avery and Santos aren’t idiots, either, so it’s fun to see how they try to stop Jack, even as the debate the ethics of stopping him, because he is, after all, killing bad guys who want to kill him. I don’t want to say too much more about it, because it’s a fun puzzlebox of a series, and Tobin does a good job with it. Alburquerque is a solid artist, so the book looks nice, too. This is a just a clever little crime drama (with some fun moments, of course), and it’s an enjoyable read.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

The fuck, indeed

Damn Them All volume 1 by Simon Spurrier (writer), Charlie Adlard (artist), Sofie Dodgson (colorist), Shayne Hannah Cui (color assistant), Jim Campbell (letterer), and Eric Harburn (editor). $19.99, 148 pgs, Boom! Studios.

I have to believe this is some kind of reworked rejected pitch for a John Constantine story, gender-swapped to make it look a bit different if you squint (Hellblazerette? Hellblazetress?) as Spurrier names his not-Constantine protagonist Eleanor, who goes by Ellie, which means this is … Elle-blazer! I mean, she wears Constantine’s clothes, talks like Constantine, and is of the opinion that magic sucks and that people should avoid it. This has to be a rejected pitch, right? I was going to skip it because of that, but my retailer had an extra copy of the trade, and I like Spurrier and Adlard, and it looked neat, so I picked it up. I’m glad I did.

I don’t really care if it’s a rejected Hellblazer pitch, because more’s the loss for DC if Spurrier and Adlard come to you with a Hellblazer pitch and you tell them to pound sand. This is a terrific comic, and I hope it lasts as long as these two gentlemen want to do it (Boom! likes to do these 15-issue stories split up into 5-issue trades, but this is already 6 issues, so maybe they’re doing something different with this), because it’s so neat. At the beginning of the book, Ellie’s uncle tries to scare her away from magic by summoning a particularly terrifying demon, but it doesn’t work. In the present, she’s presiding over his funeral and wake when a detective from New Orleans finds her and wants something from her, but before we can find out what it is, all hell breaks loose, quite literally. It seems that every demon in existence – there aren’t a lot of them, fret not – has been summoned to Earth, and anyone with a little bit of know-how can have their very own. This is not a Good Thing, obviously, even thought Spurrier is clever about it – the demons can do things for their masters, sure, but they have very specific skills, so they stick to those things, which makes them different from genies. Also, we learn early on that demons are not actually super-evil – sure, some of them are, but it turns out their position in Hell is important, and the fact that they’re on Earth is messing everything up, and most of them want desperately to go back to Hell, as Earth causes them some amount of pain. This makes the book a bit more relatable, because Ellie isn’t struggling against esoteric, supernatural creatures, she’s fighting against all-too-human douchebags. She takes it on herself to send the demons back to Hell through exorcism, which isn’t easy, and of course most of the humans who possess a demon are unhappy that she’s trying to do so. And some demons are actually evil, and they’re enjoying the hell out of being on Earth wreaking mayhem. There’s a lot going on.

Spurrier does a very good job with the characters – Ellie is interesting, sure, but so is Dora, the cop, who has her own demons in her head, and all the other weird people in this book. Ellie works – a bit – for a gangster, who seems to have some affection for her … until he gets his own demon, and then it’s all about him. There’s a wannabe magician who follows Ellie around like a puppy, and Ellie, naturally, “John Constantines” him, much to his chagrin. The main villain is interesting, because his motives for doing what he does are not your regular “rule the world” kind of thing. Spurrier gives us a nice, twisty plot that doesn’t clear everything up – it’s an ongoing, after all – but gives us a very good start to the book and a good handle on what kind of person Ellie is – as in, not terribly nice, but willing to get the job done and at least try to avoid collateral damage. That counts for something, right?

I’ve always liked Adlard, but he went off into the Zombie Universe for 15 years and I didn’t see much of his art, and it’s spectacular here. It has a bit of a Tommy Lee Edwards vibe, which is unusual because Adlard was always a harsher artist than Edwards (not that Edwards is all smooth and curvy, but he’s not as jagged as Adlard was earlier in his career), but these days, Adlard has smoothed out his lines just a tiny bit to soften them, and he’s not “coloring outside the lines,” so to speak – Adlard and artists with similar styles as his seem to not erase some lines that extend beyond a character’s body, for instance, because it makes their art harsh and edgy. Adlard isn’t doing that anymore, at least not on this book, but his line is still very solid and his use of blacks is positively David Lloyd-esque. His characters look like they want to spruce up but don’t have the time or the skills, and it’s interesting to contrast someone like Ellie’s gangster boss, who tries to look posh, with the main villain, who is effortlessly so. Ellie herself always looks frazzled, but that’s kind of the default look for this kind of character, and it hides her deadly focus on the problems at hand. The colors are superb, too, as Dodgson and Cui have to make London look like the real world so that the demons can also tear into reality, as they color them in weird hues and with a softer focus than the “real” world. Adlard has to design some very weird demons, and the colorists do a good job helping him make them look even more bizarre. The book looks amazing, and it’s nice to see Adlard’s work in color again.

I’m glad I got this and I hope Spurrier and Adlard can do it for a while, as long as they are able to tell their complete story. Yes, it might be HellblazerXX, but who cares, right, as long as it’s a good comic!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You never want to see something like this!

The Devil’s Cut by various writers and artists. $9.99, 68 pgs, Dstlry.

The horribly-named Dstlry brings us this one-shot, with a bunch of snippets of their upcoming comics. Do I think Dstlry will make a big splash and then not survive? I do. Am I rooting for Dstlry to make a big splash and thrive? Of course I am – there are a lot of cool creators who have formed the company (and also Brian Azzarello), and anything that gets them to do comics that they want to do is all right with me, and the brief moments in this book make me want to read more, which is the entire point. In summary: James Tynion IV and Christian Ward give us an unusual ghost story; Marc Bernardin and Ariela Kristantina have a sci-fi story about a man creating an android that looks like his dead wife; Elsa Charretier and PK Colinet do a fun story about a spy whose cover is blown escaping; Stephanie Phillips and Joëlle Jones have a strange vignette about a sexy coroner who fucks corpses … I think?; Mirka Andolfo does her thing with a sexy demon who has come up with a way to thrive on Earth; Jock does a piece about a kid who sneaks aboard a spaceship and almost goes to space with it (and I have to imagine that eventually, he will end up in space if Jock continues with this); Azzarello and Eduardo Risso reunite for a Western scene that is gorgeous but very much unlike what Risso’s art has looked like in the past; Scott Snyder and Francesco Francavilla reunite for a weird story of a man trapped on a very disturbing yacht; Jamie McKelvie gives us a story about a perfect future and the woman who has grown bored with it; Ram V and Lee Garbett do a tale about two lovers whose world is coming to an end and how they handle it; and Becky Cloonan and Tula Lotay have a story about a young woman imprisoned for witchcraft who might actually be a witch? All of these stories are pretty well done (well, Bernardin’s is a bit boring), but they’re just teasers, after all, so who knows how they will play out. That’s a very solid collection of talent, though, and I’m certainly hoping Dstlry does well. We shall see!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That dude’s having a bad day

Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise by Tradd Moore (writer/artist/letterer), Jensine Eckwall (artist), Heather Moore (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $29.99, 120 pgs, Marvel.

If you’re the kind of comics reader who thinks writing is more important than art, first of all, you’re wrong, but beyond that, you probably won’t love this comic too, too much. The story is fine – Doc S. wakes up in a bizarre world and has to both deliver a baby in the 616 Universe and figure out how to fight a god of hate in the other (hint: it’s love, people), and it’s all very heroic and groovy. None of that matters, though, because Marvel, in their infinite wisdom (they do some things right now and then!), told Tradd Moore, “Here’s a comic. Do what you want,” and what Tradd Moore wanted to do was blow our puny little minds out the back of our heads. This is a spectacular journey through a weird, insane world, with Moore’s loopy, sinuous, sensuous, detailed, energetic, astonishing art taking center stage and not allowing us to dwell on the story, which, again, isn’t bad but isn’t super-inspiring either. Moore has always been an excellent artist, but man, he takes things to another level here, as Strange himself morphs and pulses and swells and narrows as he navigates the world, while Moore gives us so many unusual and brilliant other characters we almost get lost in each page (not in a bad way; the storytelling is solid). There are the various armored characters, wearing a weird amalgam of European plates and Japanese designs; there’s the heavily pregnant woman with the cruciform halo; there’s Yalda and Still Mona, Strange’s companions, one of whom (Yalda) has a tremendous, spiky hairstyle and the other (Still Mona) who wears more elaborate armor than the flunkies who harass the doctor and his friends; there’s Sanc Nistos, a city that appears to be constructed from bones and is watched over by giant, nightmarish creatures that look constantly in pain; there’s the Body Machine, through which Strange and the others must pass to complete their mission (and yes, it does appear the giant body shits them out after they enter its mouth). It’s almost impossible to describe everything that happens in this book, as the next page is more stunning than the one before, as Moore gives us richly detailed panels ranging from thin horizontals to expansive double-page spreads, and it’s absolutely breathtaking. This is what Marvel (and DC) should be doing, as I’ve often said: giving artists (and yes, it would be nice if Moore was a better writer or was working with a better writer, but it’s not a deal-breaker) carte blanche on their characters, letting them do one-shots or short stories and not worrying about the monthly grind. Moore has to set this “outside continuity” (he uses an age-old trick in comics to do so), but who cares, right? This is a stunning work of art, and I hope that Marvel (or DC) keeps using Moore in this way, because it would be very smart of them.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Honestly, you could pick a panel at random and it would work here

Dogs of London by Peter Milligan (writer), Artecida (artist), Valentina Bianconi (colorist), Rob Steen (letterer), and Mike Marts (editor). $17.99, 104 pgs, AfterShock.

Milligan writes a gangster epic, but as he puts it in the introduction, he wanted it to be “Milligan-esque,” as in, weird, so he added a nice twist. In the present (well, 2010 … or 2000, as both dates are given, but 2010 is first, so we’ll go with that), Frank Babbs is a respectable businessman, just knighted, and he thinks he’s left his gangster past far in the past. In the 1960s, he’s part of a five-man crew of tough guys who are fighting with a rival gang even as Frank is boinking the rivals’ main dude’s sister. Oh dear. Something happens, and three of the five end up dead, but in the present, they come back to life – still the same age as they were, mind you – and decide to kill Frank and the other member of the gang who’s still alive. That can’t be good.

Milligan gives us just enough of an explanation for why they’re alive, but it’s nice that he doesn’t get into it too much, because who really cares? As is his wont, he also brings in notions of class and wealth, as the boys were from a class that nobody cared about, so they’re disposable, and now that Frank has clawed his way to respectability, he’ll do a lot to keep it. The culture shock that the newly-risen gangsters experience is fun, too – they’re unprepared for life forty years after their deaths, and it’s interesting to see what they like and don’t like about the 21st century. Overall, it’s a pretty good crime drama – there is one twist I kept expecting which never came, which I guess is to Milligan’s credit, as he keeps it straight-forward. Similarly, the art is solid but not amazing – it gets the job done. This isn’t one of Milligan’s great works, but it’s a notch above most gangster stories simply because of the interesting twist on a “zombie” story (which the gangsters most decidedly are not, except for the rising from the grave part). So there’s that.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I mean, that’s always a solid plan!

Far South: The Great Union Score by Rodolfo Santullo (writer), Leandro Fernandez (artist), Exequiel Fernandez Roel (colorist), Ignacio Gonzalez (translator), Javier Paredes (letterer), Marina León (letterer), and Martin Casanova (editor). $9.99, 50 pgs, Fairsquare Comics.

This is a fun comic with two short stories set in a dusty Western town in the indeterminate past – it feels like the 1930s, but who knows. We get two interesting, twisty noir tales (“Sin City style,” according to the back cover), with some characters crossing over but both standing on their own and both centering on the bar in the town. In the first, a journalist from the big city wants to know about a famous outlaw and one of his victims, so the bar patrons tell him stories about both the outlaw and the landowner he vexes, and of course there’s a nice twist at the end. In the second story, there’s a shipment of money coming in for the union so they’ll end their strike, and a bunch of different parties are interested in stealing it. It all goes pear-shaped, of course, and lots of people get shot. Both stories are quite fun, and Fernandez is a terrific artist, so there’s not much more to say about this. I think I missed another one-shot with other stories set in this world, so I’ll have to track that down. It’s just a fun, noir, quasi-Western. Everyone digs those!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Sucks to be them

Fearless Dawn: Cold by Steve Mannion (writer/artist). $4.99, 26 pgs, Asylum Press.

Speaking of artists that I wish Marvel or DC would throw money at to do a book (I can imagine Mannion doing an Elsa Bloodstone book, and it looks amazing), Mannion is back with another chapter in the odd life of Fearless Dawn, his action hero-cum-spy heroine who’s always fighting Nazis or dinosaurs (or, you know, Nazi dinosaurs). Unlike the Doctor Strange book, the story in this isn’t quite good enough to overlook, but Mannion’s art is so much fun that I can, even if others can’t (and I don’t blame them if they can’t). Dawn is staggering through a blizzard, almost dead, until she comes across a house in which she finds food. Unfortunately, her Nazi enemies find it, too, and that’s where things start to get weird. I don’t want to spoil it, but … it’s weird. It involves people in trances who fly, a dude in a hospital, and a patient in a coma. Mannion has never cared all that much about logic in his comics, and he doesn’t here, but he does seem to be hinting at things ahead, even though this is a “one-shot.” Mannion’s Fearless Dawn comics have the loosest of continuities, so who knows if he’s going anywhere real with this, but it’s a fun read, mainly because Mannion is such a good artist. I can’t really say it’s a good comic, but I like it, and if you’re a fan of Mannion (and why wouldn’t you be?), it’s nice to see a nice chunk of art from him. Still, I could see him drawing that new Fire and Ice mini-series from DC and killing it, but I guess that’s just not in the cards.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Come on – the girl just wants some food!

Hexware by Tim Seeley (writer), Zulema Scotto Lavina (artist), David Ferracci (art assistant), Valentina Cuomo (colorist), Maurizio Clausi (letterer), and Antonio Solinas (editor). $16.99, 128 pgs, Image.

Seeley is a decent writer, but he’s not a great one, so occasionally his interesting ideas don’t work out as well as some others, and that’s the case with Hexware. It’s in the future, and AI is everywhere, and the rich live in fancy towers completely separated from the poor (as is always the case, but in fiction, it’s often more starkly emphasized), and a rich family is torn apart when a poor dude somehow gets close to them and detonates a bomb, killing their young daughter. Their android servant, who learns, of course (she’s AI!), decides to ask “Satan” (never identified, but still) for help, and the devil puts the girl’s soul in the android’s body, but demands that she hunt down escaped souls and send them back to hell. The android seems to have witch powers, and the girl thinks she looks keen in that kicky hat, hence the title. Of course, “Witch-Where” (which is what the android is nicknamed)/Jesi (the girl’s name) soon finds out there’s something weird going on with the androids in the city and with the souls she’s supposed to send back and the group that sent the dude to blow up her family, and she has to do something about it. You knew that was coming!

It’s just a bit of a mess. Seeley is trying to blend a sci-fi concept with some horror elements and even some camp, and he can’t quite pull it off. He’s making a point about class warfare, of course, which is fine, but he keeps adding plot elements to do with artificial intelligence and what it means, and them some Trumpian kind of politics, and it’s just too unfocused. It certainly can be done, but Seeley doesn’t do it. He detours to actual hell in the middle of the story, and it feels off. Witch-Where and Jesi are decent characters, but they’re not deep enough to really care about their predicament, so whatever trials they go through ring kind of hollow. Everyone else is kind of cardboard, and while Seeley pulls some interesting cards out of the deck – Jesi’s father’s boss is a bit weirder than we expect – it’s not enough. It’s an entertaining mess, but a mess nevertheless. The art is much the same – Scotto Lavina (and Ferracci) has a nice, scratchy style that makes the world look nice and lived-in, even the sleek, rich parts, and the characters are weird and interesting, but the page layouts are a bit confusing too often and the panel-to-panel storytelling sometimes lacks coherence. It’s a more difficult book to read than it should be, in other words. It’s not a bad comic, but Seeley has done better.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s gotta hurt

Joe Fixit by Peter David (writer), Yıldıray Çınar (artist), Dee Cunniffe (colorist), Matt Milla (colorist), Ariana Maher (letterer), and Daniel Kirchhoffer (collection editor). $17.99, 100 pgs, Marvel.

David returns to Joe Fixit, the Hulk incarnation that became the bodyguard of a Las Vegas mobster back in Incredible Hulk #347 (which is reprinted in this volume just to allow Marvel to jack up the price because it has a higher page count, technically), and he has some fun with it. It’s set during that time, so it’s not like this is moving the character forward – this is just an old-fashioned superhero jam, as Peter Parker shows up because he’s on his book tour for his photography book (remember that?) and together they have to fight the Kingpin and a bunch of hired henchdudes from around the Marvel U, because Fisk wants to move in on Joe’s boss, Michael Berengetti, and that’s going to be a problem. In the olden days of “compressed comics,” this would have been a two-part story – three, tops – but David is good enough to keep it lively across five issues, and I will never not love the henchpeople of the Marvel U acting like regular folk, and we get some of that here. Çınar, of course, is as solid as ever – he’s just a good superhero artist, but I do wish Marvel/David had convinced Jeff Purves to pick up his pencils just for this series, because I can’t imagine the dude has lost the ability to draw, and it would have been keen to see. Still, the art is good, and that’s always good. There’s not much to say about this series – it’s just a good, fun romp that changes nothing but is solidly entertaining. It’s comfort food!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Hulk likes logic!

Kaiju Score volume 2: Steal from the Gods by James Patrick (writer), Rem Broo (artist), Francesco Segala (colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), and Mike Marts (editor). $17.99, 96 pgs, AfterShock.

This is a pretty unnecessary sequel (I’d say Patrick did it solely as a cash grab, but that would imply you can make any money doing comics), but what the heck, it’s almost as fun as the first series, although the very end – which suggests future stories – isn’t as great because of where the book is (presumably) headed. Michelle, who was part of the crew in the first book, is now running her own bunch, and after the fustercluck of the first book, she’s trying to stick to low-level heists so she and her crew won’t get killed. Of course, some rich dude offers her the score of a lifetime – a frozen monster in Russia happened to swallow lots of treasure before it froze, including a lot of one-of-a-kind things. She doesn’t want to accept, but she suddenly finds herself needing cash, so she and her gang head off to Russia. The monster just happens to be a really, really bad one, and if you were unsure that it would be unfrozen and wake up, perhaps you shouldn’t be reading comics! It zips along nicely, and of course there’s some backstabbing and double-dealing, but it remains a keen idea, and the art is nice. Nothing too groundbreaking, but heist comics are usually fun, and the fact that Patrick is smart enough to keep the focus off the giant monsters for the most part (I mean, they have to be incorporated into the narrative, but it’s very matter-of-fact) works well. I imagine Patrick will try to continue the story if he can, and I’ll probably keep getting it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Such eloquence!

Land of the Living Gods by Isaac Mogajane (writer), Santtos (artist/colorist), Dave Sharpe (letterer), and Mike Marts (editor). $17.99, 98 pgs, AfterShock.

The pull quote on the front of this book is from Multiversity Comics, and beyond the fact that the person being quoted needs a thesaurus (it’s a “wonderful story that takes the unique diversity of South Africa and turns it into a comic book that shows how unique, diverse, and fascinating the medium can be” – my emphasis), it’s a quote that implies that the book will be a different kind of post-apocalyptic story, and it’s not really, unfortunately. As I’ve repeatedly stressed, plots are hard, and I don’t mind that this is a plot we’ve seen over and over throughout the years, but just taking a garden-variety plot and plopping it into a different and relatively new environment doesn’t make it necessarily good. It’s fine, but nothing special. There’s a person who believes they’re special and sets out to prove it, there’s a hardened criminal with a heart of gold, there’s an evil dude trying to hold onto power, there’s the evil dude’s wife, who might be more evil than he is, there’s a mysterious stranger who can probably help our hero … it’s placed against the backdrop of African culture and religion, which gives it a veneer of, yes, uniqueness, but boiled down, it’s just a typical story. Mogajane wants to show a non-violent solution to the problem of evil men in power, and we get that, but along the way, he makes sure there’s plenty of violence to keep the mouth-breathers satisfied. There’s just not a lot to set it apart from any other random post-apocalyptic tale, despite the setting. And I find it extremely fascinating that our hero, Naledi, is albino, and therefore, in a world and comic full of Africans, the presumptive savior is … white. Very odd. Anyway, this is a forgettable story, but it’s not awful. Damning with faint praise, I know, but that’s the way it is.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Ordinary Gods volume 2: God Machine by Kyle Higgins (writer), Joe Clark (writer), Felipe Watanabe (artist), Daniel HDR (artist), Frank Williams (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Michael Busuttil (editor). $16.99, 132 pgs, Image.

The first volume of this series was pleasant enough, but this one falls flat, as I’m still not convinced Higgins can sustain longer series. He seems to have some good ideas that he just can’t keep going, and here, we see the fall-out from the first volume, in which a bunch of god-like being imprisoned on Earth woke up and realized they were, in fact, god-like beings. Now they’re trying to turn off the machine that keeps them there (a “god machine,” you might say), and it becomes almost like a heist comic, which I should dig, but it lacks any kind of spark. It feels like the characters are just going through the motions, as they slot into roles and do what the plot requires of them, and it’s just not that interesting. It’s not a bad comic, per se, just kind of bland. Higgins does trap the leader, Christopher, in an interesting prison, but even that’s been done better, so it’s not like it’s the cleverest thing in the world. It’s just a rote adventure, and it ends pretty much how we expect, which is disappointing. The art is still solid, which is nice. I don’t know – it’s nothing special, and that’s too bad. Maybe Higgins should stick to mini-series?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, ew

Plush by Doug Wagner (writer), Daniel Hillyard (artist), Rico Renzi (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), and Kevin Gardner (editor). $19.99, 132 pgs, Image.

I was a fan of Vinyl, Wagner and Hillyard’s previous collaboration (I still haven’t read their first comic, Plastic), so I picked this up, but it’s not as good, sadly. It starts off perfectly well – Devin just got dumped by the woman he wanted to marry, a woman who’s pregnant with another man’s baby, and he’s thinking about still getting married to her, but his friend Levi tells him to knock it off and takes him out to get his mind off it … to a furry convention. While there, Devin feels like he’s going to puke, so he steps out into the alley, where he sees three furries … well, eating someone. Yep. He freaks out and calls for help, but the cops in town (we never find out where we are) aren’t the greatest people – the first cop on the scene is the dude with whom his girlfriend was cheating, and her father is the local sheriff, who wants Devin to marry her simply because his family has money. Nobody believes him about the cannibal furries, but later, they break him out of jail and wreak havoc doing so. Now, they’re on the lam!

It’s a decent hook, but Wagner doesn’t really do too much with it. It quickly becomes clear that it’s a standard “old white ‘normal’ dudes” trying to kill the “weirdos” that they don’t get, and the fact that Devin and the others are “furries” has nothing to do with it. They could be hippie musicians, the gays, or people with darker skin than the cops, and it really wouldn’t change the story equation. Wagner kind of misses a chance to do something interesting with the furries, which is too bad. Meanwhile, we never get anything with the cannibalism, which is very weird. Devin brings it up a few times, but even he gets over it pretty quickly, and we never find out more about it. Finally, while it’s an entertaining grindhouse kind of story, the fact that the furries are really, really good at killing people (and seem very prepared to be attacked) is also never explored. I mean, what the heck is going on with this cannibalistic, furry kill squad in this book? I can’t imagine most people who dress up in animal costumes and go to conventions are this adept at A) eating people; B) killing armed men, so what’s the deal? It’s frustrating. Entertaining, but frustrating.

Hillyard does nice work, though, so that’s cool. He has a Tradd Moore/Ryan Ottley vibe to his work, and those are two good artists, so that’s not a bad thing. He does very well giving the people wearing masks and costumes some personality, especially the one who never speaks and we never see out of costume. The gore is a bit ridiculous, but, you know, grindhouse and all, so it’s forgivable because it’s so over-the-top. It’s a good-looking comic.

I will probably get the next collaboration between these two, if another one is coming. This is a decent enough comic, it just feels like Wagner left too much meat on the bone.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

A little bacitracin will fix that right up!

Red Zone by Cullen Bunn (writer), Mike Deodato Jr. (artist), Lee Loughridge (colorist), and Steve Wands (letterer). $9.99, 99 pgs, AWA Studios.

As you know, I’m a sucker for spy stories, and Bunn has some fun with this, which is NOT a thriller about a football team passing the opposing team’s 20-yard line (sports joke, yo!) but has an old dude who teaches Russian history in New York and is recruited by the government to go to Russia with a special ops team to get an old flame out of Moscow. When they get there, all hell breaks loose, the special ops team and the old flame are killed, and hey! it turns out that our hero, Randall Crane, was once a super-duper spy in Russia, and he and the old flame have a LOT of enemies and Crane needs to get the old flame’s daughter out of the country. As you might be able to tell from the cover, there’s the tiniest bit of sci-fi here, as one of the dudes who’s after him wears a weird exoskeleton, but generally, it’s just a bunch of bad guys trying to kill our heroes. It’s just a fun little spy story. Deodato does his thing, and it works beautifully because Deodato knows what he’s doing. You can see that he “casts” Vincent Cassel as Crane – Deodato points out in the backmatter that he always thought Cassel would be a good Bond – and Brian Cox is the big bad, and I think Gal Gadot is the daughter, but I can’t tell exactly. You can dislike Deodato’s “casting” of very recognizable actors – and I do – but he’s good enough to “rough” the art up so that the actors aren’t quite as obvious, and I can live with it when Deodato does it more than some others. There’s not much else to say about this – it’s a spy thriller, and I like those, so if those are your kinds of thing, you’ll probably like this, too. It’s not going to change the world, but it’s very enjoyable.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Don’t fuck with Vincent Cassel!

Scarlet Witch: The Last Door by Steve Orlando (writer), Stephanie Williams (writer), Sara Pichelli (artist), Russell Dauterman (artist), Carlos Nieto (artist), Chris Allen (artist), Elisabetta D’Amico (inking assistant), Matthew Wilson (colorist), Tríona Farrell (colorist), Dee Cunniffe (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $19.99, 148 pgs, Marvel.

Ok, I’m going to rant about things I’ve ranted about before, but I just can’t help it sometimes. I get that writers have things to say and they don’t use subtext anymore, and I still don’t know if it’s because they’re lousy writers or if they just think the audiences are too stupid to understand, but I just hate it. I hate reading/watching something that obviously has a political agenda (which is fine) but feels the necessity of screeching to a halt so a character can spell out the agenda for all the brain-dead people reading/watching and not getting what’s really going on. The latest offender: Steve Orlando! This trade is perfectly cromulent – Wanda sets up a shop in a small town and helps those in need (I love when writers do something like this, because usually it’s not a bad idea but it will be instantly ignored by the next writer, because we’re living in an age where each writer has to put “their stamp” on a character that’s been around longer than they’ve been alive and will long outlive them), and she has an assistant with a mysterious past (which we learn about soon enough) and she tries to solve problems without being too punchy. Groovy. Why Orlando feels the need to bring in Wonder Woman as a villain (seriously) I don’t know, but I guess he has his own axes to grind. Pichelli is a good artist, so the art is good, while Dauterman is also a good artist, so his issue is good, and even the artists I’m less familiar with – Nieto (who draws the “annual”) and Allen (who draws a short story team-up with Storm) are good, so the art isn’t a problem.

However … Orlando has things he wants to say, and he doesn’t trust you to get it, so he needs to spell it out, and it brings everything to a screeching halt. It seems like the loss of omniscient narration has made comics … not worse, certainly, but more reliant on characters spouting off, and I’m not sure why it works better in third person narration than in dialogue, but it does, doesn’t it? “Wanda was saddened by the way women were treated in this world” just sounds better than Wanda saying, “The way women are treated in this world sucks,” but we get a lot of the latter in modern comics and hardly any of the former. Third person narration isn’t subtextual, of course, but that’s lost, as well. This is evident throughout the book, and it begins early, when a bored, rich person says to Wanda when she asks why they would call up Cthulhu (essentially): “We’re bored and rich,” which is something no one would ever say unless they were being very, very sardonic, which I don’t think is the case here. Wanda’s first “case” involves some mind-controller dude who’s taken over a small Italian town, and the one woman who isn’t being controlled asks Wanda for help. Orlando has Wanda – the Scarlet Witch, mind you, who has seen her share of things – say to the person that no matter what she says, she will be believed. This, coupled with the fact that the “Corruptor” is mind-controlling the town (against their will, naturally), is such a rape metaphor that Orlando might as well put it in neon over Wanda’s head, but it’s still stupid, because the whole point of the “last door” is that people with magical problems come to the, you know, magic person for help, so why wouldn’t she believe them? But it’s a rape metaphor, and rape is an Important Topic, so Orlando feels like he needs to tackle it, but it’s not important enough to be an actual story in a Marvel comic (“Think of the children!!!!”), so we get stupid rape metaphors and Wanda saying stupid things. There’s a lot of this in the book – obvious stuff that Orlando feels the need to spell out because we’re just that dumb. And because so much of it is dialogue, it comes off sounding very dumb. Dialogue, as I’ve often noted, is hard, and very few comics writers are consistently great at it, and Orlando isn’t one of them. So the characters in this book sound like people who are well-practiced at platitudes, either politicians or self-help gurus or therapists (although I shouldn’t lump therapists in with politicians, because therapists generally help people, but they are well-practiced at platitudes), and they don’t sound like people who don’t know what to say. Obviously, Wanda has had a lot of experience with these kinds of things, so I don’t mind it too much with her, but her assistant is a walking sassy stereotype who’s always ready with a quip, Vivian Vision is the perfectly stereotypical morose teenager, Scythia is the ridiculous villain, and I don’t think Orlando wants them to come off that way. Maybe he does, but it just feels off.

Anyway, this isn’t a terrible comic. Orlando isn’t a bad writer, just not a great one. It’s nice-looking enough, and the stories are short and decent, and Wanda tries to find non-punchy solutions, which is always interesting. I just don’t love the fact that writers want to climb up on a soapbox in these comics but they don’t know how to do it subtly. It’s frustrating. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Wonder Woman, NOOOOO!!!!!

Time Before Time volume 4 by Rory McConville (writer), Declan Shalvey (writer), Jorge Coelho (artist), Chris O’Halloran (colorist), Hassan Otsame-Elhaou (letterer), and Heather Antos (editor). $16.99, 110 pgs, Image.

I think I’m done with Time Before Time – it’s not a bad comic by any means, it’s just not doing it for me. As you might recall, I’m not the biggest fan of time travel because it makes my head hurt, and I appreciate that McConville and Shalvey have gone in completely the opposite direction – absolutely nothing matters when their characters travel in time – but that’s not great, either, because this is basically a sci-fi political thriller that happens to take place in many different time periods, and there’s nothing unusual about it at all. I mean, a lot of the action in this volume takes place in 4 billion BCE, where the humans have set up a sanctuary away from the time-traveling craziness of the future (Jason O’Mara would like a word), and that’s a bit intriguing, but not enough to make the book all that excellent. Meanwhile, characters appear and disappear in many different time periods, and nothing seems to matter. The characters are just doing horrible things to each other, the few decent characters face an uphill battle, and I struggle to care. It’s mildly entertaining, but it’s just not compelling enough. One of the characters who everyone thought was dead shows up alive in this volume (not a big surprise, but still), and it’s supposed to be a big moment, but it didn’t land for me because I just didn’t care about the character. The book goes through the motions well, but it’s nothing great. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That can’t be fun

Trve Kvlt by Scott Bryan Wilson (writer), Liana Kangas (artist), Gab Contreras (colorist), Jimmy Savage (color assistant), DC Hopkins (letterer), and Chase W. Marotz (editor). $16.99, 110 pgs, IDW.

This is a very funny, occasionally ridiculous, but also quite good story about a cult trying to, well, bring Satan to Earth. Like you do. In the first few pages, Marty, a long-time employee at Burger Lord (a fast-food chain), comes up with a perfect plan to rob all the stores in the strip mall where his place of employment is located, and he pulls it off perfectly, except he gets greedy and robs a truck in the parking lot, taking the driver’s last package, which appears to be a black record. Marty thinks nothing of it, but apparently it was something that the cult needed to summon Satan, and they’re motivated to get it back. And so begins Marty’s weird adventure!

The plot is perfectly fine – it doesn’t exactly go where you expect it, as it’s a comedy, so the cult isn’t exactly as sinister as you might expect, and one of the cultists has an interesting reason for joining it. It ends a bit ambiguously in the most hilarious way possible, too, so there’s that. What really makes the book good is how well Wilson writes the characters, particularly Marty and Alison (the new hire he’s interviewing when the cultists show up and kidnap him … and her, because she just happened to be there) and Bernice, Marty’s best friend, who decides it’s her job to rescue him. All three of these characters are excellent, as we learn why Bernice cares so much about Marty and how she’s not going to let a stupid cult stand in her way, while Marty and Alison are both completely and hilariously committed to their jobs at Burger Lord, to an insane degree. Wilson doesn’t mock them for it, either, even though it’s very funny – they’re just trying to be the best employees that can be, even in a low-wage, low-end job like fast-food restaurant worker. The idea of Burger Lord is funny, too – early on, we think it’s just a riff on Burger King, but it soon becomes clear that the owners are hard-core Christians, and the names of the various food items are related to the Bible, which is very clever. How do the owners tie into the cult? You’ll have to read to find out!!! Kangas does a good job with the art – it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s solid, except for some scenes at the end which are set in the middle of nowhere for no good reason – and she makes sure to give even minor characters – like Sonja, the disgruntled employee – some good personality. This is just a very fun, clever quasi-end-of-the-world comic (in which the world doesn’t end, don’t fret!), and you should definitely check it out.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Pickles SUCK!

What’s the Furthest Place from Here? volume 2 by Matthew Rosenberg and Tyler Boss (“storytellers”), Roman Titov (colorist), Shycheeks (color assistant), and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer). $14.99, 122 pgs, Image.

Continuing with one of this month’s themes, which is “second volumes that aren’t as good as the first one,” we come to this, which is better than some of the other ones from this month but still not as good as the first volume of this title, mainly because Rosenberg splits up “the team” – the group from volume one, that is – and it becomes a bit scattershot, as we zip around to check up on the people from the first volume to see what they’re up to, and while they’re all fairly interesting, because he’s whipping around a bit, nothing feels too compelling. The storytelling is still pretty good – we see an event from two different perspectives, which is kind of cool, and the creepy stuff is still pretty creepy – and the world-building is still good, as Rosenberg and Boss continue to make this place a strange and dangerous setting while still keeping it bizarre enough to be darkly humorous, but it doesn’t feel as focused as the first volume, so it suffers a bit. The two longer vignettes – one set in the forest and the other in the zoo – are pretty good, but Sid isn’t the greatest character as yet, so the fact that a lot of the book is about her doesn’t help. Boss does nice work with the art, though, which is good. As with a lot of these second volumes, it feels like the writers had a great idea, came flying out the gate, and in the second volumes they’re taking a breath and setting things up for further down the line. I mean, that’s fine, but it makes a lot of these second volumes feel … not exactly superfluous, but a bit too much like treading water, and it’s frustrating. But this is still a pretty good comic, and unlike some of the others up the post, I’ll give volume 3 a whirl.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Where Starships Go To Die by Mark Sable (writer), Alberto Locatelli (artist), Juancho! (colorist), Rob Steen (letterer), and Christina Harrington (editor). $17.99, 100, pgs, AfterShock.

Here’s another comic I wanted to like more than I did, although it’s not bad. It takes place at Point Nemo, which is a spot in the Pacific Ocean that is farthest away from land on the planet and where countries land their decommissioned spacecraft to lessen the chances of them hitting populated areas. In this book, which takes place 50 years from now, a spaceship that was supposed to be approaching Barnard’s Star, where there’s supposed to be an Earth-like planet, is hurled back to Earth and crashes at Point Nemo. A would-be astronaut, Samkeli Dlameni, is recruited by a mysterious woman, Kiara Katri, to salvage it for its reactor, which she says will help provide clean energy for a dying Earth. Samkeli doesn’t necessarily believe her, but she also claims that she can get the spaceship flying again, and he could get a chance to be an astronaut, which circumstances on Earth prevented for him years earlier. Of course, the mission goes pear-shaped incredibly quickly, and Samkeli and Kiara and their team have to fight against the global superpowers (who don’t want someone else providing clean energy to the world’s losers) and something weird at the bottom of the ocean. Whatever will they do?!?!?

It’s not a bad book, but it’s nothing special, either. They discover some strange things at the bottom of the ocean, and Sable smushes fiction together with “reality” kind of cleverly, but part of the thesis of the book is that racism is bad, which, I mean, duh. What cracks me up about it is that Samkeli finds it hard to believe that racists and hate-mongers could be technically advanced enough to achieve space travel, which is weirdly naïve of him, it seems. Anyway, Sable’s ultimate point is that maybe, just maybe, violence isn’t the answer to every problem, which is certainly not a bad thesis, but it means that one character in this book acts so stupidly that it’s almost impossible to take seriously. This character has plenty of evidence that violence is not working, but they continue to follow that path. It’s annoying and a bit obnoxious, and it undercuts Sable’s point a bit. It’s frustrating.

So this is a decent story that doesn’t quite turn into a compelling one. There’s some interesting stuff in here, but it’s ultimately a forgettable quasi-horror tale. That’s just the way it is.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That can’t be pleasant


Justinian’s Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe by William Rosen. 367 pgs, 2007, Viking Penguin.

The sixth-century plague has fascinated historians for a long time, and Rosen is just the next in line, but it’s a fascinating subject, so it’s not surprising it inspires writers to go poking around in it. Rosen’s thesis, which is echoed in the other book I’ve personally read on the subject, David Keys’s Catastrophe (although Keys is looking a bit more globally and more at the environmental disaster that preceded the plague), is that the plague was so devastating that it altered the trajectory of history, as it led to the development of European nation-states that might not have developed had Justinian been able to proceed with his reconquest of the Western part of the Roman Empire and weakened both the Byzantine and Persian empires so much that when the Muslims came storming out of Arabia, no great power was able to stop them. It’s not a bad thesis – Rosen gets into the idea of arable farmland developing more in the West due to depopulation, which is intriguing – and this is a readable, lively piece of popular history – it’s Rosen’s first book, but he had worked in publishing as an editor for years, so he knew how to put something together, obviously. It is a bit oddly structured, though. He has to give an overview of the Roman Empire in the sixth century and how it got the way it was, so he goes back to Diocletian and moves forward in time from there until he gets to Justinian. Justinian is the last emperor who could conceivably be called “Roman” – despite clinging to the nomenclature, later emperors were definitely ruling over an exclusively “Greek” and “Eastern” empire – and his achievements are impressive, but why Rosen feels the need to dedicate so much space to the construction of the Hagia Sophia – as impressive an achievement as it is – is odd. Justinian’s military exploits are much more germane, as he was unable to consolidate them too much because of the plague, leaving the empire vulnerable to the incursions of the Germanic people who would eventually form the proto-nations of Europe. When he gets to the plague, Rosen gets into the “history” of bacteria and how they spread and why they spread at this moment in history – which is where Keys’s book is useful – but as with the construction of the church, it feels like Rosen wants to show off his knowledge a bit, as he gets really into weeds of bacteriology and immunology, which is appreciated to a degree but feels a bit beyond the scope of the book. Once the plague devastates the empire(s), Rosen switches to its aftermath, examining how the silk trade was affected and how, once the Byzantines figured out how to make silk themselves, they weren’t as interested in the Arabian peninsula anymore (it’s a long story) … which led to a power vacuum that Muhammad, for one, was happy to fill (I love unintended consequences in history, so this part of the book was very interesting to me). Rosen puts forth his arguments cogently and he always keeps our attention, it’s just that I wonder about some of his meanderings. He does a good job with the primary sources, and he creates a nice portrait of the world of the sixth century, with all its religious fervor (the Monophysite/Chalcedonian battle, which might seem silly to us today, was fairly important at the time, and of course a good part of the argument was about who would have power in the church, although the people involved were quite devout) and the social and cultural changes that accompanied the dissolution of the Western Empire and attempted reconquest and the plague years. If you don’t know much about the sixth century in Europe and want to know why you speak a Germanic language instead of a Romance language (if, indeed, you do), this might be a nice book to check out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


Ridley season 1 (PBS). PBS goes through periods where they chuck a lot of cop/mystery dramas on at the same time, and then go back to, I don’t know, period dramas for a while, and I like cop shows more than I like period dramas, so I watch the cop shows! First up: Ridley, starring Adrian Dunbar as a retired detective who’s retired because 18 months earlier, his wife and daughter were killed in a house fire that was supposed to either scare Ridley off a case or kill him, but not do anything to his family, so he’s having a bit of a hard time dealing with it. Because “consultants” in cop shows are all the rage, he’s called back in by his protégé, played by Bronagh Waugh, for a case that might have something to do with a missing persons case Ridley worked years earlier. Of course, he sticks around to solve more cases! It’s an enjoyable show – I mean, some of it’s pretty bleak, but that’s to be expected, but Dunbar is a nice presence and Waugh is an interesting actor. The two middle cases are a bit too similar in terms of whodunnit, but all of them are pretty good. The setting is terrific – the show was filmed in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and it looks amazing. I didn’t love Dunbar singing – he co-owns a jazz club, and I assume Dunbar just likes to sing, so they threw it in there; he’s not bad, but, I mean, it’s smooth jazz, so the show just grinds to a halt whenever he gets up on stage. There are also a few instances of “I’m going to tell the obviously unhinged person that I’m calling the cops on him” moments, which is always frustrating – don’t tell the obviously unhinged person that you’re going to get people who will lock them up!!!! Play along, and once you’re out of their presence, then call the cops! Sheesh with these people – they almost deserve to get killed. Anyway, it’s nothing great, but it’s a nice, solid cop drama. Nothing wrong with that!

DI Ray season 1 (PBS). Parminder Nagra (who is somehow 48 years old) gets promoted to Detective Inspector simply because she’s Indian (although, as she often points out, she’s from Leicester and has no connection to her heritage, which the characters and the show seem to think is a Bad Thing) and there’s a murder involving a Muslim Indian who was dating a Hindu woman and was apparently killed for it by her brothers. Every white person on her team (and even the black cop) want her to rubber-stamp their assumptions so they can be seen as unbiased, but Nagra ain’t having it, as she realizes the case is about a lot more than a so-called “honor killing” (at one point, she can’t keep herself from shouting “For fuck’s sake!” when one of the white cops mentions it). Of course, the case is a lot bigger than one person’s death, and Nagra manages to gain the trust of her team and dig deeper into the case, which, of course, is like a danged octopus. Nagra is terrific as Ray, because she knows she can’t unleash her rage against those who deserve it (she’s hit with a bullying charge by a white cop because she dared correct her when the cop got her rank wrong, although she did it in the mildest way possible), and she’s also, as I noted, not really Indian, so the racism she encounters infuriates her, as she gets it from white people and, a bit, from Indians who think she’s betrayed her heritage. The cast is very solid – Gemma Whalen shows up as Ray’s boss, her team doesn’t get much of a chance to shine, but they do a good job, Maanuv Thiara is good as the sergeant who’s assigned to her team because he knows Punjabi and Urdu, and Jamie Bamber does his “I’m more attractive than you are so I can be kind of a douche even though I’m charming” thing that he does quite well. But Nagra holds the entire thing together, and she makes the show more interesting than it would have been otherwise. This is slightly better than Ridley, but they’re both solid shows.

Grantchester season 8 (PBS). Grantchester keeps plugging along, which sounds like an insult but only is partially – it’s comfort food, and while comfort food is good, it’s also familiar, and Grantchester isn’t going to surprise you, but it’s still a decent show. Tom Brittney, who still doesn’t quite have the charisma that James Norton brought to the show, is perfectly fine as the pretty-boy pastor, who this season accidentally kills a man when he hits him with his motorcycle and spends the rest of the season moping about it to the point of running away from home when his wife is about to give birth. All’s well that ends well, of course, but it’s still an annoying trope in fiction – “Oh, woe is me, I can’t forgive myself so I have to abandon everyone I love!!!” Meanwhile, Robson Green’s boss – the one whose fiancée Brittney boinked last season – is still peeved at Green and he’s trying to force him to retire, but we know that’s not going anywhere. The mysteries continue to be interesting, mainly because the writers try to tie them into social and cultural themes – in the first episode, we get a dead motorcyclist, and we get the clash between the older generation and the younger; in another episode the idea of women’s lib is a central focus; and Leonard, the defrocked priest (because he’s gay) is running a halfway house for ex-convicts that does not make the townspeople happy and is always the focus of any police investigation. As usual, the two stars get the airtime, but it’s the women who are usually the most interesting characters – Green’s wife (played by Kacey Ainsworth) gets a promotion at her job, but she’s not as prominent as she has been in past seasons; Tessa Peake-Jones as the old housekeeper in the vicarage continues to be a mix of irascible and sentimental; Charlotte Ritchie as Brittney’s new wife is not a series regular (she spends a few episodes conveniently away at her parents’), but she does a wonderful job putting Brittney in his place; and Melissa Johns, as usual, steals the frickin’ show as Miss Scott, the police secretary who’s smarter than everyone else (with the possible exception of Green, but she’s close). I keep telling my wife they need to focus an entire episode on Miss Scott (who does not have a first name yet!!!) while she goes about her day – they could have Green and Brittney solving a murder in the background, but Miss Scott would just be doing her thing and would solve it before they do, but they don’t listen to her until they reach the same conclusion! The show will never do that, of course, because, as I noted, it’s comfort food. Still, it’s nice that they’re moving everyone forward in their lives and remembering that despite its sameness, the world is changing and the people need to change with it. I look forward to the next season!

1883 (Paramount). Taylor Sheridan decided that ruling the present-day airwaves wasn’t enough, so he expanded his “Yellowstone” empire into the past with not one, but two “prequels,” both of which have aired on Paramount+ but only one of which, 1883, has shown up on boring old non-streaming Paramount. I like Yellowstone, so I figured this would be a good mini-series, and it was … with some fun caveats. The big names in the series are Tim McGraw as James Dutton, Kevin Costner’s ancestor and the dude who went West to Montana in the first place; Faith Hill as his “I don’t get a say in where we go” wife; and Sam Elliott as the grizzled old veteran who’s in charge of getting a bunch of German and Slavic immigrants to Oregon and who asks for McGraw’s help in doing so; but the focus of the show is Isabel May as McGraw and Hill’s daughter, Elsa, who narrates the show and is, frankly, hilarious. May is a decent enough actor, and she does a decent job here, but boy howdy, is she a Mary Sue. Elsa is disrespectful to her mother and aunt early on as they travel from Tennessee to Texas to meet up with McGraw, because she’s an 18-year-old punk who doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her. Eventually she becomes closer to her mother (the aunt dies before they begin the trip), but because McGraw raised her to be tough, she’s like a Frank Miller woman – basically a dude that you can fuck. She rides horses better than anyone, so she gets a job helping herd the cattle, and it turns out she’s a better cowboy than the ones who have been doing it all their lives. Seemingly every man under the age of 60 falls in love with her, and nobody gets too bent out of shape when she rejects them, because she’s so wonderful. She falls for one cowboy and bangs him (don’t worry, he’s sort-of a virgin too!), but then he’s immediately killed, so she mourns prettily for an extremely brief time before she falls in love with a Comanche warrior and marries him, even though she decides to go to Oregon with her family because she committed to the herd, but then she’ll go back to Kansas to hang out with her dude. At least McGraw at one point makes a joke about her – he says that if her mother doesn’t like the fact that she married someone, she’ll probably fall in love with the next man she meets along the trail. It’s hilarious, honestly – I kept making jokes about her, as in, “She just learned how to play gin rummy, and now she’s kicking my ass!” and “She had never baked before, but this is the best apple pie I’ve ever had!” – and it’s a bit annoying, because May, as I mentioned, is fine, but her half-baked philosophical musings about the glory of nature and the evil of cities are tiresome (I assume Sheridan holds these views, at least partly), and she sucks all the air out of the room, so that McGraw’s steely resolve, Hill’s mama-bear energy, Elliott’s hard-earned despair, and LaMonica Garrett’s slow thaw as he realizes he can have a life with a widowed immigrant are all given shorter shrift than they probably deserve, because May is too busy being wonderful and saying stupid shit about the prairie. Sheridan also wants to show how brutal life was on the pioneer trail, but because he wants to show everything bad that could happen to a wagon train, everything bad does happen to them, and the show becomes bleaker and bleaker as we go (I mean, the show begins with Elliott contemplating suicide because his wife and daughter have died from smallpox, so it’s not like it’s cheery to begin with), but it’s still gripping and absolutely beautifully shot. It’s not as great as a lot of people say it is, but it’s still a pretty keen Western … if you can get past the flawless young woman at the center of it all.

Justified: City Primeval (FX). As nice as it is to see Timothy Olyphant once again inhabit one of the 21st century’s greatest television characters (and Olyphant does it so well), it doesn’t quite … justify (sorry) a new series with Raylan Givens, even though this isn’t really bad, just disappointing. Olyphant is terrific, of course, and the cast is pretty solid: Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as a Detroit defense attorney is quite good, Boyd Holbrook has fun as the main villain, and Vondie Curtis-Hall and Adelaide Clemens do decent work, as well. The story, however, just doesn’t work very well. Taking Raylan out of rural America and plopping him down in Detroit has its charms, and it allows the creators to bring in interesting elements, such as Ellis-Taylor and the Albanian mob, but it’s still fairly inert. Holbrook is far too lucky to take seriously – the dude commits crimes with no care for the consequences, and he just keeps getting away with it, which is annoying. Several people should (and probably would) have just shot him in the head at some point, but other characters act extremely stupid around this guy who’s obviously a psychopath and they obviously know he’s a psychopath and no one would care if they shot him in the head. Then there’s what they’re doing with Raylan – he’s hanging with his daughter at the beginning because her mom is on vacation with her new husband, and we’re supposed to get that he’s trying to be there more for his daughter but his job gets in the way. Fine. He takes her to Detroit with him, which seems foolish, and then, when she’s menaced, he sends her home to Florida. Her presence is almost completely unnecessary in this show except to get Raylan to realize that some things are more important than his job, which he does at the end. However, because she’s not in the show very much, it doesn’t hit as hard (I don’t want her to be in danger, because that’s a dumb cliché, but at the same time, we don’t get much sense of their relationship). And then, at the end, they leave the possibility open for another season, which undoes any concessions he’s made to his daughter and wife. It’s frustrating. Plus, Olyphant’s daughter, Vivian, plays his daughter on the show, which is certainly sweet but because she’s not a good actor, it’s hard to care too much about her. There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the show, but it’s still just not quite up to the standards of the earlier series. I wouldn’t mind more, but I hope if it’s coming, they make it better!


Here are the “classic” reprints I bought this month:

Alvar Mayor Book 3 from Epicenter Comics looks good, of course, and it has one more book to go, so I’m looking forward to reading it! The Best of Jane Bond from Rebellion/2000AD is a nice collection of 1960s strips featuring the female spy, drawn nicely by Mike Hubbard. TwoMorrows has a collection of Simon and Kirby’s Western comics, which looks pretty sweet. I haven’t gotten anything from Dynamite in some time, but they have a Red Sonja Omnibus featuring 1970s Marvel stuff, so of course I got that! 2000AD also has another nice volume of Spider stories with The Syndicate of Crime vs. The Crook from Space, which, I mean, come on, that’s awesome. Finally, Marvel has the Thunderbolts Epic Collection, which features the brand-new team that took over when the Avengers disappeared in the mid-1990s. I hope they’re not keeping a horrible secret from the Marvel public! That wouldn’t be cool of them!

Here’s the money I spent in August!

2 August: $93.67
9 August: $144.90
16 August: $140.51
23 August: $149.19
30 August: $192.13 (Sigh – that Red Sonja Omnibus really jacked up the price this week!)

Total for August: $720.40 (August 2022: $1000.03; August 2021: $871.59)
YTD: $4391.18 (through August 2022: $7258.83; August 2021: $5341.27)

Let’s check out the publishers and what I got from them:

AfterShock: 7 (7 trade paperbacks)
Asylum Press: 1 (1 single issue)
AWA Studios: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Boom! Studios: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Death Ray Graphics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Dstlry: 1 (1 single issue)
Dynamite: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Epicenter Comics: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Fairsquare: 1 (1 single issue)
Fantagraphics: 2 (2 graphic novels)
First Second Books: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Humanoids: 1 (1 graphic novel)
IDW: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Image: 9 (4 single issues, 5 trade paperbacks)
Iron Circus Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Marvel: 5 (1 “classic” reprint, 4 trade paperbacks)
Rebellion/2000AD: 2 (2 “classic” reprints)
TwoMorrows: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Viz Media: 2 (2 manga volumes)

6 “classic” reprints (32)
6 graphic novels (39)
2 manga volumes (8)
7 single issues (65)
20 trade paperbacks (101)

You’ll notice the large amount of trades I got this month, partly because there were five weeks, but also because AfterShock brought out a bunch of things that should have been out a while ago. Peter Milligan wrote in his introduction that he has a good relationship with AfterShock, but he also wrote it in September 2022, so I don’t know if it’s changed now that we know that AfterShock isn’t the greatest company in the world because they can’t pay anyone. I assume they weren’t putting out these trades because of their bankruptcy, so does this mean things are looking up for the company? They’ve put out some good comics over the years, but I don’t want to give them money if they’re not paying people and their rights deal “sucks,” as Alex di Campi puts it. Anyway, that’s why, it seems, I had a busier month than usual, and why this post is a bit later going up than I’d like. Here’s the publisher breakdown so far this year:

Abrams ComicArts: 1 (1 graphic novel)
AfterShock: 9 (2 single issues, 7 trade paperbacks)
Ahoy Comics: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Archaia: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Asylum Press: 1 (1 single issue)
AWA: 5 (5 trade paperbacks)
Battle Quest Comics: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Beacon Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Black Caravan: 2 (2 single issues)
Boom!: 9 (9 trade paperbacks)
Clover Press: 3 (2 “classic” reprint, 1 graphic novel)
Conundrum Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Dark Horse: 35 (7 “classic” reprints, 8 graphic novels, 11 single issues, 9 trade paperbacks)
DC: 21 (3 “classic” reprints, 13 single issues, 5 trade paperbacks)
Death Ray Graphics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Del Rey: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Drawn & Quarterly: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Dstlry: 1 (1 single issue)
Dynamite: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Epicenter Comics: 2 (2 “classic” reprints)
Fairsquare Comics: 2 (1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
Fantagraphics: 6 (1 “classic” reprint, 2 graphic novels, 3 single issues)
First Second Books: 2 (2 graphic novels)
Floating World Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Greenwillow Books: 1 (1 graphic novel)
HarperCollins: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Helvetiq: 1 (1 graphic novel)
High School Heroes Productions: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Humanoids: 1 (1 graphic novel)
IDW: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Image: 54 (1 “classic” reprint, 2 graphic novels, 21 single issues, 30 trade paperbacks)
Iron Circus Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Lev Gleason: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Living the Line: 3 (3 graphic novels)
Mad Cave: 6 (1 graphic novel, 4 single issues, 1 trade paperback)
Marvel: 28 (4 “classic” reprint, 6 single issues, 18 trade paperbacks)
NBM: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Oni: 3 (2 graphic novels, 1 trade paperback)
Penguin Books: 1 (1 graphic novel)
PS Artbooks: 4 (4 “classic” reprints)
Rebellion/2000AD: 6 (5 “classic” reprints, 1 trade paperback)
Roaring Brook Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Silver Sprocket: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Titan Comics: 3 (1 graphic novel, 2 trade paperbacks)
Top Shelf: 1 (1 graphic novel)
TwoMorrows Publishing: 2 (2 “classic” reprints)
Uncivilized Books: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Vault: 6 (6 trade paperbacks)
Viz Media: 8 (8 manga volumes)
Z2: 1 (1 graphic novel)


Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth died at 56, so here’s “The Fonz” and “Beer Goggles”:

It’s getting toward the end of baseball season, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore it when someone gets a ball to the groin, especially when that player is named – I kid you not – Lars Nootbaar:

(That’s an awesome name, by the way.)

College football has begun, and while I absolutely loathe the conference realignment crap that’s going on, you know how I feel about college football (and pro, to be honest):

I’m not going to write a lot about college football except to say Colorado’s win over TCU was awesome and I hope either Oregon State or Washington State wins the Pac-12 just to stick it to the teams that abandoned the conference one last time, but I will say there’s almost nothing more fun about sports than watching gamblers go insane when a team fucks them over. Penn State was favored by 20 points or so against West Virginia and was really never in danger of losing, but WVU kept their starters in late in the game and scored a meaningless touchdown with about 3 minutes left that pulled them to within 16 at 15-31. Once they didn’t recover the onside kick, the game was essentially over (even if they had, there wasn’t much hope), but James Franklin, PSU’s coach, put in his second team and decided not to kneel on the ball once Penn State got a first down and didn’t need to give the ball back. They got the first down with about 45 seconds left, so they could have knelt twice, but instead, the Nittany Lions ran regular plays and their back-up quarterback scored a touchdown with 6 seconds left, so Penn State ended up covering the spread. Petty James Franklin is the best James Franklin, any Penn State fan will tell you. This did not sit well with some gamblers, who had taken the Mountaineers to cover, and let me tell you, their tears are delicious:

Fuck right off, gamblers. Fuck. Right. Off.

Anyway, life here is moving along. I decided that I should learn how to cook at the ripe old age of 52, so I’ve been reading up on some principles of cooking and digging through my cookbooks for stuff that I can handle before I can become more proficient. I’ve made chicken breasts with a salsa verde and honey sauce; spicy chicken patties (featuring zucchini!); a honey garlic chicken; beer-battered fish (with vodka in the batter, because why not?); and turkey mac ‘n’ cheese. Nothing too challenging, but I’m having fun and I’m learning stuff, so soon enough I’ll be deboning chickens like a pro!

No beard gif this month, but maybe I’ll do two next month. I did lose some weight in August, though, as this morning I weighed 253.6 pounds, which means I lost .6 pounds in August. I was actually less on the 31st and the 1st, but I gained a bit over the weekend, and I am doing these on the day I post, so that’s the way it is. I’ve lost 7.2 pounds this year. Not bad, I guess.

January: -2.1
February: +.1
March: -1
April: +.7
May: -3
June: +/- 0
July: -1.3
August: -.6

Meanwhile, I found my senior photo. For someone who didn’t have hair metal hair, this is about as 1988 as you can get:

My daughter turned 21 on 30 August, which was nice. She enjoyed staring at – but not eating – her birthday brownie:

Last year I posted some photos from exactly 30 years ago, but over the course of my senior year in college, I didn’t take many pictures, so I haven’t been doing that. However, in August 1993 my future wife and I left Pennsylvania and drove across this great land of ours to Portland, Oregon, and I took a lot of photos. Here are some of them!

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway:

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, home of Dollywood!

The 1983 Honda Accord that we drove across the country (actually, I drove, because it was a manual and my wife didn’t know how to drive it). This was a solid car, and I wrecked it about a month or so after we arrived in Portland. Dang.


The Grand Tetons:

Hot springs in Yellowstone, where, yes, it was that cold early in the morning, even in August. I like this picture because my future wife is wearing my bad-ass Mariners cap, with the amazing old-school trident logo. I got that hat in 1982 or so, and I still have it. One of the top five logos of all time, I should think.

Too cool!

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City:

Bryce Canyon National Park:

Zion National Park:

The Grand Canyon. (I’ve lived in Arizona for 22 years and this is the only time I’ve been to the Grand Canyon!)

The Golden Gate Bridge in the fog:

We made it to Portland on 5 September 1993. We had a nice cross-country trip, but spending a month in a small tent is not something I want to do again, I’ll tell you that much!

I hope everyone is having a nice day. It’s Labor Day here, which is ironic given how much the American government (and, sadly, a lot of its people) hate laborers so much, but at least we have a day off, right, so all is well! If you want to order something from this post (or even if you don’t and just want to conspicuously consume), use the link below and we’ll get a tiny bit of that sweet, sweet moolah. Thanks for reading!


  1. fit2print

    I’m the kind of comics reader who thinks writing is more important than art, and though it might not be a popular opinion, I hereby present Exhibit A (a.k.a. Cliche A , which as is the custom, also happens to be true) in support of my case:

    “Good writing can compensate for bad art but good art can’t (entirely) compensate for bad writing.”

    I’ll freely acknowledge that writing isn’t more important than art by a huge margin – if I had to assign it a ratio, I ‘d say it could be as little as 55:45 or less in favor of writing – but based on the evidence of decades of comics reading (which has included poring over some, though not even close to all, of the work of a number of great American comics artists who fancy(ied) themselves to be good writers but aren’t/weren’t such as * gasp * Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Joe Kubert, post-1985 Frank Miller and – dare I include him among the greats? – Todd McFarlane), I stand by my judgment.

    Disclaimer: Yep, there are plenty of great artists who also happen to be very good-to-great writers, among them Stan Sakai, Walt Simonson, John Byrne, Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola – but I don’t think that negates my point.

    I consider you to be a terrific reviewer, Mr Burgas – insightful, thorough, fair – and you do a better job than just about any other critic I know of giving all the visual aspects of a comic the credit they’re due in your critiques, but I think even you might have to admit that the books you cover here are far, far more often undone by the quality of their writing than by the merits of their art. Then again, I could be way off the mark. I haven’t exactly been keeping score but that’s my impression…

    1. Greg Burgas

      I’m not fundamentalist about my opinion, so I won’t argue … too much! Everyone can come up with their examples, and I always present the Chuck Beckum parts of Moore’s Miracleman, which can almost convince you that Moore is a bad writer, and I can even point to the Avengers book and the Doctor Strange books above, which have just kind of there stories but which soar because of the art. But I’m not going to get too bent out of shape about it. The reason I think the way I do is that it feels like writers fall too easily into cliches, while artists still tend to stay away from them and therefore the art feels fresher. But that’s just me. Maybe I’m too jaded! 🙂

      Thanks for the nice words. I really do appreciate it!

  2. tomfitz1

    BURGAS: I don’t like pickles, either. Or onions, or mustard too, but that’s just me.

    Spider-man in a parka? What was he, cold?!?

    I tend to agree with your assessment on JUSTIFIED: CITY PRIMEVEL. Remember the end-credits scene with you-know-who?
    They should have done the whole season with that in mind, it would’ve been better.

    1. Greg Burgas

      I don’t like mustard, except for some fancier mustards, and I only like onions chopped up and mixed into things.

      Spider-Man was in disguise as some punk named Peter Parker, waiting for Crusher Creel to come into a diner, so that’s why he’s wearing a parka.

      I think they did have the end-credits scene in mind throughout – in interviews, it seems like that was baked into the script early on, and that’s why I’m annoyed they had him retiring. Unless they’re leaving it the way it is, Inception-style!

  3. Eric van Schaik

    August was a very slow month. Due to Miracleman and Savage Dragon having a irregular shipping schedule no comics that month.

    8/4 Edward Reekers The Liberty Project.
    This was a album presentation/concert. Maybe you’re familiar with the song Ruthless Queen by Kayak. Edward Reekers was the singer of that song.
    They played the first 7 songs of the album and there was a interview with him.
    All in all a nice evening.
    Shirt: no.

    The first month of my new 2 day job has finished. It’s a lot less hectic than I was familiar with. Still looking for something for the other 3 days.

  4. Well, I’m digging Time Before Time. This latest volume wasn’t my favorite, but the story moves at a good clip and the art is nice (despite a few artist changes). I think there’s only one more volume to come, though there are a few as-of-yet uncollected one-off issues, too.

    Doctor Strange: Fall Sunrise has maybe the best comic book art I’ve seen in years, and it’s easy to fall into the pages with the oversized Treasury edition (which features the best paper Marvel’s used in a while). The story didn’t really work for me at all, so I felt disengaged from the book overall. Though I did love the Body Machine.

    Justified: City Primeval didn’t really do it for me. Thanks to dim lighting and video compression, the show looked like a dark smudge with blue-green highlights. It lacked the Southern poetry of Harlan and the dopey Elmore Leonard criminals I like (Clement was kind of a dope but not in the most fun way). I didn’t feel it built to much much of a crescendo, and it is weird the daughter character just disappeared after a few episodes. I will continue to follow the adventures of Raylan Givens if they keep making them, though I also worry they’ll undercut the beautiful ending of the original series.

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