Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

What I bought, read, watched, or otherwise consumed – December 2021

To oppose something is to maintain it. (Ursula K. LeGuin, from The Left Hand of Darkness)


Strange Adventures by Tom King (writer), Mitch Gerads (artist), Evan Shaner (artist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Brittany Holzherr (collection editor). $39.99, 336 pgs, DC.

Okay, so obviously I really dug this, as I have it as the best book I read in December, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. I don’t mind that King was given carte blanche to shade Adam Strange, as he’s not quite as heroic as he’s usually been portrayed. Alanna has always seemed like kind of a jerk, so it’s not surprising that she’s kind of a jerk here, too. And I always get annoyed that DC builds Batman up into the “Bat-god” but then don’t want to use him, so Mr. Terrific, of all freakin’ characters, has to be shown as “better than Batman.” But Mr. Terrific is pretty interesting in this book, so okay. The biggest problem I have with this book is that nobody wants to help Adam and Rann, which feels off. King does a good job explaining some of the weird things in this series, but the fact that there are no superheroes who want to help Rann just feels wrong, and it’s kind of the hinge upon which the story turns, so there’s something missing from the overall plot. However, King does a very nice job showing the cost of war and what people will do to save their family/country/planet, and it’s very interesting that King is allowed to make Strange more of a soldier and less of a hero, which means he gets to do some questionable things. And King kept me on my toes, at least, with what exactly is going on, as nobody seems terribly trustworthy, and maybe he didn’t fool others, but I’m not too bright, as I think I’ve mentioned in the past. Gerads and Shaner do excellent work – Shaner’s cleaner lines and fluidity make his Rann stuff look wonderful, like a very cool 1950s sci-fi movie, while Gerads does his grittier work with the Earth stuff, which has less action but more intrigue, and Gerads is good at making the world look scruffy. It’s a smart way to split up the art, and it allows each issue to be 28 pages and allows King to really fill out the story.

I’d like to write more about this, but there’s a lot of intrigue going on and I certainly don’t want to spoil anything. King seems to do very nicely with these 12-issue things, and it’s cool that DC lets him do it, especially because he gets to really change things up with their characters. I don’t know if DC is going to allow what happens in this book to stand, but it would be kind of neat. This is a nice cheap hardcover (40 bucks for 12 over-sized issues), and it’s a very interesting and cool story. So that’s nice.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

And yet grawlix is used a lot throughout this book!

The Immortal Hulk volume 10: Of Hell and Of Death by Al Ewing (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Ruy José (inker), Belardino Brabo (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $24.99, 158 pgs, Marvel.

Ewing’s body horror epic comes to a fairly standard end – I mean, unlike King with Adam Strange, Ewing couldn’t do too much with the character, because Hulk is much more higher-profile than Adam Strange – but that doesn’t make it bad, as this has been one of the best superhero books over the past couple of years. It was nice that he didn’t exactly end it with a giant fist fight, although he did give us two separate fights against the Avengers, which makes no sense whatsoever. He does give us a nice conversation between Hulk and Betty, which is always gppd to see, and he does some interesting work with the Fantastic Four, which is also keen. The link between the Leader and Hulk is a bit odd, but whatever. The ending wasn’t quite as good as the early issues, but that’s to be expected, although occasionally I wonder if Ewing simply wanted to do 50 issues and Marvel let him, because occasionally this series felt a bit too drawn out. All that being said, it’s been an excellent series, and while I guess Bennett won’t be getting work at Marvel for quite some time, his work is really excellent here, as it has been during the series. His body horror work has been superb, and he does nice work with the stuff in 1901, too. He uses interesting Dutch angles during the fights, too, which is a bit disorienting but keen, and he does a good job with the choreography, as he has to pack a lot into each panel. It’s always been a very nice-looking book, and Bennett goes out in style.

These stories kind of annoy me, because Marvel simply “reboots” everything these days even though they don’t officially “reboot” anything. Ewing did some fascinating stuff with the character, and I’ll be interesting to see what Donny Cates does with the Hulk and what, if anything, he retains from this series. I guess what’s nice about these “reboots” is that you can jump on and jump off pretty easily, and this series has been one that you can do with this series!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Always the solution!

Chu #6-10 by John Layman (writer/letterer) and Dan Boultwood (artist/colorist). $19.95, 105 pgs, Image.

Layman’s struggling comic might not get a third arc, which makes me sad, because while it’s not quite as good as Chew was after 10 issues, this arc is better than the first one, as Layman is able to get out from the shadow of Chew and Saffron comes into her own. She gets involved in a heist that involves time travel induced by drinking, which is kind of the best kind of time travel, and it’s a nifty, clever, twisty story that shows off Layman’s plotting skills and his good sense of humor, as he blends some disturbing moments with a tone of levity that he did so well with the parent series. Saffron is meaner than we expect, but she’s smart and fiercely loyal, even to those who don’t deserve it (and Layman, if he’s able to continue the series, is going to have to do something about her boyfriend, who’s a weasel), and that makes her a very good protagonist. Layman has always been good at coming up with complicated predicaments for his characters, and what makes them so interesting is that he usually gives us off-the-wall ways of the characters getting out of those predicaments, ways that make sense but also feel fairly fresh. He zips over Saffron’s psychological issues, too, which is another thing Layman does well – he gives his characters hidden depths and doesn’t dwell on them too much, bringing out their personality quirks in the course of the plot, which tends to heighten the tension. It shows how damaged some of these people are, but doesn’t let the book get too dark, and it’s a nice hallmark of Layman’s work. I still don’t love Boultwood’s work, as the angularity of it isn’t tempered by anything more grounded, so it looks a bit too unrealistic, but I don’t hate it, either, as he’s a pretty good storyteller and his character designs are quite fun, as is the contrast between the foreground and background coloring. It’s a nice-looking book, certainly, but I’m still not all in on the line work.

Layman has said they’re going to see how sales on the trades are before determining if the series is going forward. It’s too bad – I get that having hit series after hit series is rare in creator-owned comics, but Layman is a good dude and he’s a good writer, so it’s unfortunate that he’s finding this tough going. Chu is a clever heist comic – who wouldn’t dig that?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Any plan that needs more alcohol seems legit

Barbaric Book One: Murderable Offenses by Michael Moreci (writer), Nathan Gooden (artist), Addison Duke (colorist), and Jim Campbell (letterer). $16.99, 91 pgs, Vault Comics.

Barbaric is a testament to creators who keep things simple – there’s a “barbarian” (named Owen, because why not?) who is cursed by three witches (for no good reason that we know of … yet) to travel the world with an enchanted, talking axe and kill bad guys. Owen doesn’t particularly like this bargain, but he goes along with it for the time being until he can figure out what to do about it. And so Michael Moreci gives us a story of a barbarian cutting evil dudes down, and then he teams up with a young lady who happens to be a witch, and they kill more evil dudes. Simple! It works because Moreci gives Owen, his axe, and Soren interesting and different personalities, and they all have a sense of humor, which works well when you’re talking about an enchanted, talking axe that gets drunk on blood – you can’t take it too, too seriously. Moreci manages to give it a little depth, too, and I imagine things will become a bit more serious if the series continues – Owen has to find out why the witches cursed him, after all, and I doubt it will be a lighthearted reason. So while it’s mostly entertaining, there’s a nice sublayer of darkness, and it works. Gooden is a superb artist, so the book looks amazing – he manages to make a talking axe menacing and interesting-looking, which is harder than it sounds – and Duke’s coloring fits the medieval, magical world nicely, as we get a lot of earth tones and eerie greens and purples. It’s not revolutionary coloring, but it does fit the tone of the book well and it doesn’t obscure the excellent line work, so that’s nice.

There’s not much to say about Barbaric – it’s a simple premise executed very well. That’s not a bad thing!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Don’t question the physics of it!

Syphon volume 1 by Mohsen Ashraf (writer), Patrick Meaney (writer), Jeff Edwards (artist), John Kalisz (colorist), Troy Peteri (letterer), Matt Hawkins (editor), and Elena Salcedo (editor). $16.99, 62 pgs, Image/Top Cow.

This is a good comic, but it’s a good chunk of change for three regular-sized issues, and it’s a bit frustrating. I’m not sure why it had to be priced that high, but I’ll have to consider buying the single issues, perhaps, if I want to read this going forward. It’s frustrating. Don’t those mooks at Top Cow know you price the first trade reasonably, like your cocaine, and after we get it we’re hooked, and then you jack up the price? I mean, really.

Anyway, in many ways this is a standard fantasy story – a dude gains the ability to siphon off the pain of others, which he does because he’s a good guy but it begins to affect him, as the pain goes into his body. Then he meets another dude who tells him he can siphon any emotion, making himself feel great by stealing the euphoria of others. Of course, this becomes addictive, and our hero – Sylas – tries to reject the bad dude – Antonio – who naturally doesn’t take kindly to that. Sylas is part of a long line of these kinds of people, and eventually he figures out how to defeat the bad dude, naturally, and all is well … or is it?!?!?!? Of course there’s a stinger at the end, promising a bigger plot behind Sylas’s odd powers.

So why is this better than the other comics below? Well, it’s told quite well, and that’s a plus. Ashraf and Meaney do a good job with Sylas, creating an interesting character who doesn’t simply fight his way out of tough situations and, as a fundamentally decent dude, understands very quickly that he has the ability to mess with people’s lives and he needs to be careful. He also genuinely wants to help people, so he’s a character we want to root for. His antagonist is not a nice guy, true, but he’s also been doing this kind of thing for a while, and it’s easy to see how he might become twisted by this kind of power. It’s not just a “good vs. evil” thing, which is always good to see. And Edwards and Kalisz do marvelous work on the art. It’s very crisp and fluid, so the “action” scenes work very well, and Kalisz uses neon-esque hues for the powers, which sets them nicely apart from the “real” world. It’s a nice contrast, and it’s due largely to Kalisz’s coloring. So while it’s a bit standard in terms of plot, the scripting and the art make it better and more interesting, and I’d like to read more. I don’t know about that price tag, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Drama much?

The Batman & Scooby-Doo Mysteries is a pretty fun collection, although it is a bit silly. I mean, does it really matter if Batman loses the purple gloves he used early in his career? No, it does not. But it’s a fun bunch of stories with low-stakes mysteries, and writers Ivan Cohen and Sholly Fisch do a good job giving us a Batman who realizes that not being a giant asshole all the time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m not sure if I’m going to get volume 2, but it’s a decent enough comic. The Bequest is a pretty good book about fantasy characters who end up in our world and have to fight against white supremacists. Tim Seeley knows how to write a nice adventure, and Freddie Williams II is a good artist, so this is a cool comic. Daniel Warren Johnson’s Beta Ray Bill is amazing-looking, of course, but the story is just kind of meh. Beta Ray Bill goes to Hell, basically, and learns that appearances aren’t everything. Very pretty, though. Cult of Dracula takes the Dracula story into the present day and connects it to Lilith, the “first wife of Adam,” and it’s not a bad horror story, but the art is just okay. The DC Winter Special is your typical DC anthology, and it’s fine. I rolled my eyes super-hard at the “JLQ,” not because I’m against it, but man, it’s such a try-hard move. The Death of Doctor Strange: Winter Fox issue was purchased, by me, for the sole reason that White Fox is in it. And you know what? White Fox is in this!!!!! So of course it’s awesome. I mean, duh. Graham Nolan writes The Girls of Dimension 13, which is a slight story about young girls who, basically, move into Doctor Strange’s house to house-sit. There’s more to it, of course, but I don’t want to spoil it! Bret Blevins, stepping out of his time machine from the late 1980s, provides some nice artwork. The Gotham City Villains Anniversary Giant is another nifty anthology, although some of the stories – the Penguin and Catwoman one, for instance – are really odd. Nice artists, though. I got King Conan #1 just because I liked the cover and wanted to check it out to see what’s going on, and it’s basically Jason Aaron wanting to do a “Greatest Hits” story and Mahmud Asrar drawing the ever-loving shit out of it. I’ll get the trade. Luna is a weird post-hippie 1960s story about a woman who finds herself in the desert with a cult, and it’s basically Maria Llovet drawing weird-ass stuff, but I like Maria Llovet drawing weird-ass stuff, so it’s fine. Cullen Bunn does another interesting horror-type story with Phantom on the Scan, in which people with strange powers start dying and the government has something to do with it, of course. Mark Torres does nice work with the art. Project: Patron asks What if Superman stayed dead after Doomsday? and has fun with that, as the government created a robot piloted remotely by several people and how that secret might get out. It’s neat. I got Snake Eyes: Deadgame for morbid curiosity, and Liefeld continues to vex me. His inking is actually quite strong, so his figures aren’t as awful as they usually are, but as usual, his backgrounds are practically nonexistent, the relationship of his figures with each other is ridiculous, and he and Chad Bowers don’t do a great job with the story. It’s not terrible, but it’s still Liefeld, so it ain’t good. Spree is a post-apocalyptic story that is set in a mall, and how the people living in the mall form tribes that don’t like each other, and the event that messes them all up. It’s not bad, although the foregrounding is a bit strange, as the society in the mall isn’t really set up well. But it’s fine. Mike Perkins’s art on The Swamp Thing: Becoming is stunning, and Ram V’s story is pretty good, as he does a decent job setting up the new avatar and fitting him into the DCU. I don’t know what the heck is going on with the “Future State” stuff, but that story is fine, too, although not as good as the new origin. Finally, Tales of Mother Goose is a fun, noir take on nursery rhymes, and Frank Tieri has fun with it, while Joe Eisma does a nice job with the art. I kind of hope that Tieri and Eisma get to do more of these stories, because it’s a decent idea and fun to read.


A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom by Mark Gregory Pegg. 253 pgs, 2008, Oxford University Press.

This is the best book I’ve read on the Albigensian Crusade, the first time a Christian power deliberately targeted another Christian area with a “crusade” (the Fourth Crusade, which ended up destroying Constantinople, occurred slightly before this, but that was not exactly “deliberate”), and the event that has spawned a billion conspiracy theories about the bloodline of Jesus and made Dan Brown a kajillionaire. Any book I’ve read on the crusade frames it as a battle between the uncultured north of France and the cultured south of Languedoc, which is what the area around Toulouse is called because of the linguistic differences between their French and northern French. Pegg destroys that paradigm, as well as the idea that the crusade targeted “Cathars,” which, he claims, never existed. “Cathar” has become a catch-all phrase for the heretics of southern France (much like “Albigensian” was originally, as one writer, writing years after the event, decided that the heretics came from the town of Albi). Many writers have claimed that the Cathars had an alternate “church” that threatened Roman Catholicism, but that’s always been a bit hard to believe, and Pegg goes over the records of the Inquisition of the 1240s and 1250s, when many of the people who had lived in the area for 40-50 years were questioned, and concludes that not only did a “Cathar Church” not exist, but the term “Cathar” is a complete misnomer. There were “heretics” in southern France, such as they were, but they were basically men and women who acquired a reputation for wisdom and honesty, and the local people felt more comfortable going to them for advice than the priests, who were often fairly ignorant and often non-local. Pegg spends a lot of time on the heretics, showing us their beliefs and the structure of medieval society, especially in southern France, where land claims often overlapped each other or were broken down into the tiniest of slices, making adjudication of land disputes especially fraught. Into this society came the “good men” and “good women,” who were generally Catholic but didn’t always listen to the priests. There wasn’t much the Church could do until a papal legate was murdered in the region early in 1208. Innocent III, possibly the most powerful pope who ever lived, decided to teach the “heretics” a lesson, and he enlisted soldiers from all over Europe to head to southern France to stir shit up. This was not a land grab by the French crown, as Pegg points out – Philip II Augustus, the French king, never went on crusade and never wanted to go on crusade, only reluctantly allowing his hot-blooded son, the future Louis VIII, to go. France did eventually get the land, but through a system of bequeaths and fidelity, not because the French army went in and took it over. Pegg looks at the military campaigns in the south with exacting detail, as he shows how the crusaders were able to succeed quite a bit but how they were never quite able to subjugate the local population. The “unsung hero” of the crusade is Simon de Montfort, a minor French noble (with a claim to the earldom of Leicester in England) who turned out to be a military genius. He was commander for the first decade of the crusade, and only because of his skills was the crusading army able to seize and hold lands. He was killed in a siege in 1218 and his feckless son, Amaury, had problems holding onto his lands and eventually ceded them to the French crown (de Montfort’s other son, also called Simon, inherited the earldom, which he claimed around 1230 when he was about 21, and who eventually became perhaps the most important Englishman you’ve never heard of due to his convening of Parliament in 1265 that adopted laws much more democratic than Magna Carta). Pegg does an excellent job explaining the military entanglements and how the region became “French,” and he also continues to examine the nature of the heresy of its inhabitants. It’s a very well done book.

The Albigensian Crusade is catnip to medieval historians, because it really has it all: warfare, heresy, popes drunk with power, bishops drunk with power, backstage machinations, idiots with too much power, random deaths that change the course of history, and the greatest apocryphal quote of all time: “Kill them all, let God sort them out” (which I imagine most people say or quote not having any idea of its origin). It’s also incredibly depressing, not because some high culture of southern France was wrecked by the northern mouth-breathers (although the Languedoc was wrecked by the crusade) and not because the bloodline of Jesus had to go underground because the tolerant Cathars that harbored it were all killed, and not even because it’s the reason we have the Inquisition (although that’s a good reason, I must admit). It’s depressing because prior to this, there really was less of an idea of “us versus them” in terms of Christianity – the various sects didn’t like each other, of course, but the Catholic Church could rarely do anything about it because it was too weak. It took an extraordinary pope and a diamond in the rough military commander to make Christians organizing an army to kill other Christians a reality, and once they knew it could be done, the floodgates were open. The Albigensian Crusade remains a hinge point in European history, and it’s nice that Pegg gives us, for now, the definitive history of it. Read this book and get bummed out about un-Christian behavior from Christians all over again!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

Whose Bible Is It?: A History of the Scriptures Through the Ages by Jaroslav Pelikan. 274 pgs, 2005, Penguin Books.

Hey, another Christian-themed book! Well, Pelikan (yes, the dude’s last name is a bird, and I am here for it) does write a lot about Jewish Scripture, too, so it’s not exactly Christian-centric, but what can I say? I dig religious stuff!

This is an interesting book, as it’s not quite what I expected. I thought it was going to be more of a look at arguments over the interpretation of the Bible, and there’s some of that, but not as much as I thought. Instead Pelikan looks at how the Bible has been disseminated throughout the centuries, which is still pretty interesting. It’s basically in chronological order, so he starts with the “Old Testament” and how Judaism evolved from more animistic religions and how crucial the written word was to Judaism (as it would be to Christianity), then he gets into how Christians co-opted Torah and the other “Jewish” Scriptures to turn them into a pre-Christian prophecy rather than just a history of the Jews and their God. He looks at the translations of the Bible from the Hebrew and the Greek and how that can lead to problems and how, during the Renaissance, scholars started having access to older texts and began to learn Hebrew and Greek solely to study the Bible (as the Latin Vulgate had been the only source for centuries, and that had its own translation problems). One point Pelikan makes, almost as a sidebar, is that the access to the “original documents” (which weren’t, of course, original, just closer to the originals than, say, the Vulgate) made the scholars more concerned with accuracy and literalism, which led to a rejection of science. Many people don’t realize how open-minded “medieval” scholars were, even working within the confines of Catholic doctrine. They were perfectly able to accept an imaginative, metaphorical reading of the six days of Creation, for instance, and it was only with the rise of Protestantism (man, Luther seems like the most miserable person ever, doesn’t he?) that literalism became a thing, which led to both the Protestant sects and the Catholic Church turning into unimaginative douchebags who insisted that God actually created the universe in six days, something that Roger Bacon (to use a good Christian scientist example from an earlier, “less enlightened” time) might have found idiotic. This is a huge shift in how the Bible is interpreted, and while Pelikan does bring it up, it seems like he doesn’t give it the prominence it seems to deserve.

It’s not a bad book, but Pelikan clearly believes in the Scriptures, so it’s not quite as critical as I wanted it to be (not “critical” in terms of “the Bible is fiction” but “critical” in terms of the inconsistencies in the Bible). He gets into some of the contradictions, but tends to gloss over them as unimportant, which is kind of odd. As I noted, it’s more of a “publication” history of the Bible (keeping in mind the anachronism of the term prior to the 1500s) than a look at how people interpret the Bible. That’s fine, but it does feel a tiny bit toothless, because part of the publication history of the Bible is what people choose to put in it (First and Second Maccabees are awesome books!) and how they choose to translate it, and while Pelikan does mention those things, he tends to gloss over the fact that a great deal of violence in European and even world history stems from how people interpret the Bible. It’s sad, but true. So it’s an interesting book, to be sure, but it feels like it’s missing some depth, which could have easily been incorporated into Pelikan’s larger narrative, as the text of the book is only 250 pages. It’s good for what it is, but it feels like Pelikan left a lot of meat on the bone, so to speak. But that’s just my opinion!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


Doom Patrol season 3 (HBO). The third season of Doom Patrol is better than the second but not as good as the first, so there you have it. After the COVID-impaired second season, we get a “season finale” of the second season, with the Candlemaker getting dispatched fairly easily and disappointingly (it’s kind of in the same vein of how it happened in the comic, but much less dramatically and much less impactfully, as the Candlemaker in the show isn’t as good as the one in the comics, because the one in the comic is one of the most terrifying villains in comic history) and then Dorothy disappearing from the show soon afterward. She takes off with the Dead Boy Detectives, because why not? Dorothy was never quite as good a character in the show as she was in the comics, because it felt like the show would never get into the whole “girl becoming a woman” thing that underpinned Morrison’s run, and while I didn’t hate Dorothy, she just didn’t work too well in the show. The major “villain” of the season is the Sisterhood of Dada, but the Brotherhood of Evil is still around, providing an interesting backdrop to the season. Rita is the big star of the season, as she goes back in time and hangs out with the Sisterhood of Dada and finds a purpose, and April Bowlby does a wonderful job with the role. Michelle Gomez as Madame Rouge is the main guest star of the season, and she does a fine job chewing the scenery, while Wynn Everett as the leader of the Sisterhood is also excellent (Everett ought to be a bigger star, because she’s good in everything she’s done). What makes the season good is that the show allows the characters to change quite a bit – all of them go through big changes, and I’d love it if the show kept going with that, because it’s pretty keen. We shall see. I still don’t love the show, but it’s better than it has any right to be, mainly due to the cast and the commitment to the weird. The “weird” doesn’t quite work as well as it does in the best of the comics, but it’s still nice to see the creators get into it. It’s a decent show, and with Marvel doing its Marvel thing, it’s nice to see a DC property going full wacko.


Dessa, Chime, Doomtree Records, 2018.

Dessa’s fourth album is pretty clearly her “worst” (I always use that word even though it doesn’t necessarily mean “bad,” just not as good as the others), as she’s mellowed a bit too much for my tastes (she was 36/37 when she recorded this) and doesn’t rap quite as fiercely as she did on her earlier albums. She’s always had a good balance between her more hip hop songs and her sing-y songs, but on Chime, she tilts a bit too far to the latter side, and it’s too bad. “Ride,” the opening track, is a perfect example of this – it’s a fine song, and Dessa does her usual excellent work with the lyrics – “Faith is a hammer with a book for a handle / And people in power can edit the past” is superb – and the song, an indictment of racism, is powerful, but it’s a bit too slow and languid, and it loses some of its urgency that way. The best song on the album, “5 out of 6,” follows that, and while it’s a typical “I’m awesome” song (a staple of entertainers for decades!), Dessa is too good to do it limply, and her fierceness carries her through. “Fire Drills,” the second-best song on the album, comes next, and it’s another power song about being a female rapper and/or just a woman in this world. Finally, the opening quartet ends with “Velodrome,” another song about the life of women in a hostile world, one that’s more mournful than “Fire Drills.” It’s a good start, but the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to those four songs. “Good Grief,” which comes next, is pretty good, but the album gets a bit too ethereal, flying away into the atmosphere and leaving us behind. Dessa’s vocals become a bit less weighty, and while her lyrics are still excellent (“It takes your whole life just to teach it two tricks: It beats and it attacks and in between is all of love” from “Half of You,” a breezy-sounding pop song), the music doesn’t really keep up. It’s either too ballad-ish (“Boy Crazy”), too poppy (the aforementioned “Half of You”), or too maudlin (“Say When”). I don’t mind those songs too much, but the loss of the fierce Dessa is a bit sad. I miss the Dessa who sang “I hit rain, I hit sleet, but mostly weather stays good, hit a deer on I-80; fucked up the hood; but you can’t play for keeps if you never draw blood, you just brace and you breathe, you drive through the dust” or “But I’ve learned how to paint my face, how to earn my keep, how to clean my kill.” This is a good album, but not as good as her first three.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆


Let’s take a quick look at the “classic” reprints I got in December!

Friday Foster: The Sunday Strips collects the complete strip that ran from 1970-1974, and it looks very keen. I didn’t actually order it, but it showed up at my shop and they weren’t sure why they ordered it. But I took a look at it and thought it looked very neat, so I bought. I’m an easy sell!

Magnetic continues to put out the work of Sergio Toppi with Scenes from the Bible, which aren’t stories, just drawings based on Bible verses. It’s not the most interesting thing in the world, but it’s Sergio Toppi, so of course it looks amazing.

Dark Horse finally got around to putting out Enigma: The Definitive Edition (a few months late), and it’s superb-looking. There’s no excuse for you not to read it now!

Classic Pulp: Spooks and Sleuths collects a bunch of horror and detective stories from the Golden Age (the “curator,” Joshua Werner, tells us little about the sources), restored nicely without resorting to “modern” coloring, so they still look like 1940s/1950s comics but they’re not as shabby. It’s a very neat collection.

Finally, Alan Hebden and Carlos Ezquerra have their late Seventies comic, Major Eazy: The Italian Campaign collected by Rebellion/2000AD. Ezquerra’s art is a bit raw, but he’d only been working for a few years prior to this, so that’s not surprising, but it’s still quite good. This looks keen.

Onward to my final month of spending of 2021!

1 December: $98.85
8 December: $68.88
15 December: $186.50
22 December: $244.59
29 December: $130.07

Monthly total: $728.89
2021 total: $8663.11
2020 total: $7535.93 (+ $1067.18 in 2021)

Well, shit. I mean, I try to buy fewer comics, and 2020 was weird because of COVID, but dang, I have to do something about spending so much on comics. Will I? NO MAN CAN SAY! It would be nice. Anyway, that’s an average of $721.93 per month, or $163.45 per week. Dang. The median was $140.46. Here’s a breakdown of how much I spent each week:

Under $100: 14
$100-199: 26
$200-299: 9
$300-399: 3
$500+: 1

My top ten spending days:

10 November: $501.47
19 May (my birthday!): $360.13
5 May: $329.69
11 August: $328.90
17 November: $274.06
7 July: $261.17
3 November: $248,45
22 December: $244.59
29 September: $243.70
13 October: $241.16

My smallest spending days:

13 January: $39.03
24 November: $51.17
20 January: $55.50
18 August: $64.15
30 June: $66.76
8 December: $68.88
27 January: $75.48
24 March: $87.58
28 July: $89.28
17 March: $89.32

I like how three of the smallest weeks were in January. They make you think it will be a good year, and then they hook you!!!!! I don’t know what any of this proves, I just thought it would be interesting to break it down a little.

Here’s what the publishers’ breakdown looks like!

Ablaze: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
AfterShock: 5 (1 single issue, 4 trade paperbacks)
Boom! Studios: 3 (2 single issues, 1 trade paperback)
Dark Horse: 8 (1 “classic” reprint, 3 graphic novels, 2 single issues, 2 trade paperbacks)
DC: 6 (2 single issues, 4 trade paperbacks)
Drawn & Quarterly: 1 (1 graphic novel)
First Second: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Graphic Mundi: 1 (1 graphic novel)
IDW: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Image: 6 (1 graphic novel, 2 single issues, 3 trade paperbacks)
Literati Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Magnetic Press: 3 (1 “classic” reprint, 2 graphic novels)
Marvel: 4 (2 single issues, 2 trade paperbacks)
Random House: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Rebellion/2000AD: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Source Point Press: 3 (1 “classic” reprint, 2 trade paperbacks)
Vault Comics: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)

For the month, we have:

5 “classic” reprints (66)
11 OGNs (125)
11 single issues (119)
21 TPBs (187)
(8 manga volumes)

That’s a pretty good haul. We have 66 collected editions that I would call “classic,” meaning they’re books that are older than just a few months and so aren’t “new” trade paperbacks. Enigma, which is 25 years old but still feels modern and has never been collected, is a “classic” reprint, and so is something like the Kirby books Marvel put out this year. It’s a wide spectrum, people! I don’t mean “classic” as in “all-time great,” I just mean it as in “old.” And that’s a lot of them! I also still bought 119 single issues despite moving away from single issues. DC and Marvel put out anthology issues that I like to get, and I still buy some series in single issues because they’re holdovers from the days when I did that (most of those are gone, but there are still a few!) or because I like the writer a lot and want to support them (Kieron Gillen and John Layman most notably, although if Kelly started doing a creator-owned book I’d probably buy that in single issues, too). I buy Dark Horse 4-issue mini-series in single issues because it’s cheaper than buying them in trade, although their 5-issue mini-series aren’t cheaper in trade (they charge 20 bucks, generally, for trades, whether they’re 4 or 5 issues, which makes it cheaper to buy the 4-issue series in single issues but not the 5-issue ones). That’s where my single issue purchases generally come from. That’s 431 comics of very recent vintage (plus the 8 manga volumes which may or may not be recent) I got this year, and I read most of them – I fell behind on the “classic” reprints, so I didn’t read many of them, and I couldn’t quite get through all the graphic novels, but let’s say I read 400 comics this year? That ain’t bad.

Here’s the final tally of publishers!

Dark Horse: 78
Image: 71
Marvel: 42
DC: 40
AfterShock: 23
Boom! Studios: 20
IDW: 19
Fantagraphics: 14
Scout: 14
Vault: 12
AWA/Upshot: 11
Magnetic Press: 10
Titan: 9
Source Point Press: 8
Viz Media: 8
Humanoids: 6
Mad Cave Studios: 6
Rebellion/2000AD: 6
Oni Press: 5
Ahoy Comics: 4
Archaia: 4
Behemoth: 4
Hermes Press: 4
A Wave Blue World: 4
Ablaze: 3
Abrams ComicArts: 3
Black Panel Press: 3
Drawn & Quarterly: 3
Albatross Funnybooks: 2
Black Mask: 2
Cat-Head Comics: 2
ComicMix: 2
Dead Reckoning: 2
Fairsquare Comics: 2
HarperCollins: 2
Heavy Metal: 2
Iron Circus Comics: 2
New York Review Comics: 2
SelfMadeHero: 2
SitComics: 2
Top Shelf: 2
21 Pulp: 2
AdHouse Books: 1
Amulet Books: 1
Andrews McMeel: 1
Antarctic: 1
Archie Comics: 1
Avery Hill: 1
Beehive Books: 1
Black Cat: 1
Caliber: 1
Cartoon Books: 1
Clover Press: 1
Conundrum Press: 1
Del Rey: 1
Epicenter Comics: 1
First Second Books: + 1
Floating World Comics: 1
Gallery 13: 1
Grand Central Publishing: 1
Graphic Mundi: 1
Holiday House Books: 1
Hyperion: 1
Keylight Books: 1
Legendary: 1
Literati Press: 1
Living the Line: 1
Pantheon Books: 1
Papercutz: 1
Plough Publishing: 1
Random House: 1
Razorbill: 1
Red 5 Comics: 1
Renegade Arts Entertainment: 1
Second Sight Publishing: 1
SLG: 1
Storm King: 1
Uncivilized Books: 1
Z2: 1

That’s not a bad list of publishers – nice and diverse. I’m not surprised I got more books from Dark Horse than any others, because, as I pointed out, their single issues are occasionally cheaper to get than their trades, so if Image had published some of those, I would have gotten one (1) trade rather than four (4) issues, and the numbers would have been different. I like Image as a publisher better, but I get more single issues from Dark Horse. I thought my DC stuff would be a bit down, but they rallied a bit at the end of the year and Marvel didn’t quite put out as much interesting stuff as they did earlier in the year, so those two ending up close didn’t surprise me too much. AfterShock doesn’t put out many great comics, but they put out a lot of very entertaining ones, so they end up in fifth place. I used to get more IDW, but they’ve gone really hard for licensed stuff these days, and I’m just not that interested in GI Joe/Transformers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stuff, so they slipped a bit. The utter lack of Dynamite comics this year is a bit surprising to me, as Dynamite, even more than IDW, has gone hard for the licensed stuff, and I just don’t care about Vampirella/Red Sonja/Elvira/Bettie Page and their ilk. Oh well. Dynamite used to do some interesting stuff, but not too much anymore.

Speaking of adding up, I ended up reading 22 prose books this year, which isn’t great compared to some people I know but isn’t bad when you consider I read about 400 comics in addition to that. I’m slowly working my way through the alphabet, yay! I just finished another last night, on the 1st of the year, so I didn’t count that (I will count it toward my 2022 total!), but that might skew my January total a bit depending on how many more I can read this month. Ever onward!

I might do a “best-of” list – we shall see – but I would like to try to read the rest of the graphic novels over the next few weeks. I feel bad I didn’t get to write proper reviews of them all, but such is life. I’m not a non-sleeping robot!!!!!


Happy New Year, everyone, and I hope everyone had a grand Christmas if you in fact celebrate Christmas. My parents came to visit, arriving here on the 18th and staying through next weekend, when they will presumably be able to fly to Hawaii for a few weeks. I don’t mind my parents being here for three weeks, and they get along well with the wife, so I don’t think she minds, either. Having the kids home for two weeks is never fun, and school start tomorrow, so that gets them out my hair! We had a nice Christmas – this year I got several gifts for my wife, which I usually don’t do because we’re very casual about gift-giving, but this year I saw a bunch of things that I knew she’d like. She got me a Spider-Man watch, on which hangs a tale. I had a Spider-Man watch in the Nineties, which had the cool “extreme” Nineties writing of his name on it. I lost it, according to my wife, in the accident that damaged my daughter, although I don’t remember that (considering I was in the accident too, perhaps that’s not surprising). She’s been looking for a replacement for it, but finding the exact one has been almost impossible. She did find a very similar one, though, and got it for me for Christmas, which was nice. It doesn’t have the “extreme” writing on it, but it does have Spidey painted on the glass and the cityscape painted on the watch face, which makes it look 3-D. It’s very keen. I have to get a new strap for it because the one it has doesn’t fit, but I’m looking forward to wearing it.

I don’t care too much about the end of an old year and the beginning of the new, because it’s an arbitrary thing anyway, but I do hope your 2021 was better than 2020, and I certainly hope 2022 is better than 2021. This wasn’t the worst year, but it wasn’t the best, either. We’re healthy and happy for the most part, but my daughter’s struggles in school are still with us, and that’s no fun. We didn’t go anywhere this year, and we didn’t see my parents until December (we hadn’t seen them since July 2020) and we didn’t see my wife’s dad all year, because we couldn’t get back to Pennsylvania and he couldn’t get out here. We’re hoping to go to Italy in October, but who knows what’s going on with COVID, as people – or, to call them by a more accurate name, idiots – still refuse to get vaccinated and cases continue to show up. Who knows. Other than that, it was a fairly generic year, with nothing too bad and nothing too great. I’m still bummed about Greg Hatcher, but I know I’ll move past that because life goes on. Even as Republicans continue to try to destroy our democracy, life goes on. I certainly hope our democracy isn’t killed in 2022, but I’m not all that confident it won’t.

But hey, the weather is nice in Arizona this time of year, and in 2021, I lost about 40 pounds and I’m healthier than I’ve been in years, so that’s cool. I still have about 50 pounds to go before I hit my ideal weight, so that’s the goal for this year. I don’t see why I can’t do that. I do need a new belt, though!

I hope everyone had a nice holiday season, and I hope everyone is going to have a superb year. I have a new weekly feature I’m going to do starting tomorrow, which involves the audience, so I hope you’ll chime in. We’re all in this together, people, so we might as well be nice to each other!


  1. Wow, eight grand! At this point, I have no idea what I spent on comics. And I think the baseline price was under two bucks. But even counting for inflation, anywhere near that.
    Now, MUSIC I might have spent a comparable amount in the day.

    Happy New Year to youse folk.

    1. Greg Burgas

      A woman I work with was flabbergasted at some of my weekly totals, but when I told her it was about $7-8 grand a year, she said that she and her husband spent that much on off-road four-wheeling, so that made sense because it’s just a hobby, and if you dig it, why not?

      I hope your new year is groovy, sir!

  2. Edo Bosnar

    Agree about season 3 of Doom Patrol; it’s a vast improvement over season 2.

    As for the coming year, I hope things get better, but it doesn’t seem like it will so far; just yesterday I learned that one of the regulars at the Classic Comics Forum, a real nice and well-liked guy, had died unexpectedly. Really sad and shocking, and – if I may stretch a metaphor – kind of rubbed salt in the still fresh memory of Greg’s passing.

  3. Ecron Muss

    Aw, man, I’d never heard of Dessa before this album and came to love her a little bit after watching all her TED talk neuroscience stuff.

    For me, CHIME was a breath of fresh air and one of the few new music records I latched onto that year. (I did tack the subsequent singles Good For You and Grade School Games onto the end for my car tape).

    I found her book My Own Devices well worth the read too, but wish she’d used the word ‘concrete’ instead of ‘cement’. 😉

    1. Greg Burgas

      Ecron: Someone at the old blog about 5-6 years ago suggested Dessa to me, and I’m glad they did, because she is pretty danged good. I haven’t read her book, though, but I might have to check it out!

  4. One correction: Enigma was collected in a trade by DC/Vertigo at least once, as the trade has been sitting in my unread pile for ages (I Pelkie’d it big time!).

    One bit of news: According to the Substack newsletter she’s doing, our pal Kelly is doing at least one (I think it was two, but I’m not positive) creator owned book through Image. If one had subscribed to said Substack newsletter at the premium rate, she was going to have special cover editions available to those subscribers. Maybe even still does, but unfortunately it was a bit too rich for my blood to subscribe. Hopefully in this new year I’ll make enough cash to justify subscribing.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Travis: I think I knew that – I should go check my repost of Enigma to see. I’m just not very bright, so I didn’t remember it.

      I did see that Kelly was doing some creator-owned stuff (I too did not want to subscribe to her Substack, for the same reason I don’t want to ever get original art – where would it end?!?!?!?), so I hope it gets into print this year, because I will buy it!

  5. Der

    “They were perfectly able to accept an imaginative, metaphorical reading of the six days of Creation, for instance”

    When I was in catechism(sunday school I guess is the term?) That was the reading of the six days of Creation because duh, we understand metaphorical readings. And that was like 30-33 years ago. Those people that insist in the six days of creation as in six days of 24 hours are whack

    Obviously I didn’t spent as much as you in comics this year, but I got a lot of comics this year, so yay for me. Since the finances might be in shaky ground for a few months, I’ve decided to re-read all of my comics(and some of my books) this year instead of buying. Will this resolution hold past, let’s say march? Who knows!

    1. Greg Burgas

      My wife was raised Catholic, and she has said the same thing, that Catholics get the metaphor a bit more than fundamentalists. Sadly, fundamentalists have really gotten their tentacles into American life, so that sucks.

      I still re-read my old comics, but I love the new ones! I hope your finances don’t get too shaky, sir!

  6. A book I read a few years ago (The Creationists by Ronald Numbers) pointed out that like flat-earthers, the Victorians had a variety of ways to reconcile Genesis and Darwin. The modern creationists broke with all that to go with a literal six days approach, which won converts because it was nice and simple and didn’t require any deep thought or cogitation.

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