Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

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

In less than three years, U.S. troops would be sent to Vietnam to protect American interests in an area that had none except those U.S. troops.

As many American military men were killed in combat in Vietnam as in World War I, more than fifty thousand.

The country was shepherded into both these wars by presidents from the Democratic Party who campaigned as liberals with promises of peace. In the first eighty-eight years of this century every war in which the United States was engaged began with a Democratic president in office. Only one Democrat president this century, Jimmy Carter, did not move the country toward war.

He was not reelected. (Joseph Heller, from Picture This)


Marvel Snapshots by a whole bunch of creators. $34.99, 240 pgs, Marvel.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Marvels, Kurt Busiek “curated” a bunch of one-shots by different creators about regular folk in the Marvel Universe, which is of course right in my damned wheelhouse, and the fact that every creator in this book nails it doesn’t hurt, either. There’s not a bad story in here, and I would love more of this kind of story, with even less superhero involvement, if I’m being honest. So let’s break it down! Alan Brennert writes an excellent Namor story, looking at post-war trauma and how insidious it is, and it’s drawn beautifully by Jerry Ordway. Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer do a story about Johnny Storm going back to his hometown and what happens when he does, with Phil Sheldon’s former assistant trying to get a story about it. Benjamin Dewey draws this, so you know it looks nice. Mark Russell and Ramón K. Pérez do an interesting story about a kid from the Bronx who joins A.I.M. because he wants to get out of the neighborhood and feels the heroes aren’t looking out for him. I love stories about low-level henchmen and why they do it, so even though the kid isn’t a bad guy, it’s still a neat tale. Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly do a Cyclops story, and while Cyclops is in the bottom five of all-time X-Men, doing a story about him at his orphanage when he’s inspired by the Fantastic Four isn’t a bad take. Howard Chaykin gives us two low-level criminals, one of whom wants to go straight and the other who doesn’t, and it’s a nicely-done story. Barbara Kesel and Staz Johnson do maybe my favorite, a romance between two people who keep getting caught up in Avengers emergencies. The next story is by Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly, about a dude who gets a job with S.H.I.E.L.D. during the “Registration Era” and decides he doesn’t really like locking kids up, even though it’s clear Maria Hill is flirting with him so he keeps doing his job (that’s just my reading of it; I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be seen that way). Finally, Mark Waid and Claire Roe (over layouts by Colleen Doran) have a story about a teenage activist who’s down in the dumps but gets inspired by Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers. All of these stories are terrific, and considering there are eight 30-page stories in here that cost 5 bucks a pop, the hardcover is a bargain. It’s a cool comic!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I don’t know … Mary Jane likes to make her points with a whip!

The Immortal Hulk volume 9: The Weakest One There Is by Al Ewing (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Alex Lins (artist), Adam Gorham (artist), Rachael Stott (artist), Ruy José (inker), Belardino Brabo (inker), Paul Mounts (colorist), Chris O’Halloran (colorist), Cory Petit (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $15.99, 100 pgs, Marvel.

Ewing’s Hulk has been one of the best Marvel books (and regular series in general) since it began, but it did lag a bit recently (volume 8 was a nice return to form), as Ewing seemed to want to make it last 50 issues (which I guess is when he’s done with the story), so he drew things out a bit, it felt. Well, he’s still doing that, but I don’t know, this trade feels a bit more explosive, as the Hulk has a nice chat with Ben Grimm (after he explains what’s going on with the Green Goliath and all his personalities) and then Henry Gyrich (whom I love, because he’s such a douchebag) sics the U-Foes on our hero, which pretty much takes up the rest of the collection, but it’s a terrific fight. Meanwhile, there’s the Leader in hell, Jackie McGee is still around, and Gamma Flight decides the Gyrich is way too much of a douchebag to work with. Bennett’s art is wonderful as usual, as he continues to nail the “body horror” aspect of this series (his “anti-Semitic” panel, which was a tempest in a teacup, has been altered), and issue #42, with its different artists for different characters in the issue, works nicely. I’ve enjoyed this book for Ewing’s entire run, and it’s nice that he’s ramping up to the big finale. I look forward to it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You could pee on him!

Far Sector #1-12 by N.K. Jemisin (writer), Jamal Campbell (artist), Deron Bennett (letterer), Maggie Howell (associate editor), Andy Khouri (editor), and Jamie S. Rich (editor). $47.88, 261 pgs, DC.

I have never read anything by Jemisin before, but I bought this in single issues because the first issue was intriguing and I want to support the Young Animal imprint, of which this is probably the last gasp. It produced some very good titles, but it doesn’t seem like Gerard Way was as invested in it as it seemed, and I know it didn’t sell particularly well. Still, we got some good comics out of it, and this is one of them. Jemisin basically delves into the problems we’ve had in American society over the past few years, but puts it on an alien quasi-planet, which is never a bad idea to do, as science fiction has been doing this forever. Sojourner Mullein (called “Jo” for ease) is sent to the City Enduring by a mysterious Guardian (we learn very little about said Guardian, and we don’t even get Jo’s “origin” until issue #5, which I greatly appreciated), a place that was constructed when the three species that live on it destroyed their own planets back in the day. To fix this, they created a genetic blocker of emotions, so they can be logical all the time. Jo gets there to solve a murder, but not really the whodunit – they know that – but why and how. Of course there’s an illegal drug trade in something that overrides the genetic blocker, because the citizens want to experience emotions. Jo is theoretically the only one who knows how to live with emotions, but she’s not the only one feeling them, and that causes problems. Jo, as an ex-soldier and ex-cop, and also as a black woman, has some thoughts about how the rulers of the City deal with things. Things, as you might expect, get testy.

Jemisin does a really nice job with all the characters – Jo is fascinating, but Jemisin does a good job with the alien species and making them more “human” as we go along. The plot is about power and its abuse, of course, so it’s not the most surprising thing, but the joy in the book is seeing how Jo navigates in a world that is, supposedly, emotion-less. Obviously, we can equate some things that happen with events on Earth – there’s a voting day, for instance, marred by irregularities – but Jemisin makes sure it’s within the context of the story, so while it’s tempting to roll your eyes at some of the obvious parallels, she’s done a good job making it clear why these things are happening, and it’s not just to point the finger at Trump or Republicans or bad cops. You can do that, of course, but the things work with the story, not against it.

Campbell does a marvelous job with the art, as he creates this weird yet familiar alien world and populates it with a bunch of odd creatures. Jo uses the power ring ingeniously, but the worst part of the art is, unfortunately, some of the action scenes. When the scope is bigger than just Jo fighting things, Campbell makes the panels too busy, and they’re hard to read, occasionally. Toward the end, the scope of the book gets bigger, and we alternate between very nice panels and messy ones, which makes the book’s flow a bit jerkier. Overall, the book is lovely, but there are some issues.

It appears that DC is releasing a trade of this in October for the low low price of $26.99, which is terrific for 12 issues, especially as they’re a bit longer than your normal, 2021 issues. It’s a very good read, and while I don’t know if Young Animal will rise again, you can do your part by checking this out!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Jo takes no shit!

Ice Cream Man volume 6: Just Desserts by W. Maxwell Prince (writer), Martin Morazzo (artist), Chris O’Halloran (colorist), and Good Old Neon (letterer). $16.99, 103 pgs, Image.

I’ve dug Ice Cream Man since it began, but for some reason, this volume really worked for me. All four issues are terrific, which is always nice to see. The first is a hilarious Watchmen parody, in which a detective tries to figure out why ice cream men are disappearing. It’s disturbing, hilarious, and drawn by Morazzo in his style but with an eye toward how Watchmen is presented. The second story is a Christmas one, and it’s actually kind of sweet, even though we keep thinking it’s going to go horribly wrong. The third has a lot of text, as half the issue is in prose, with several people linked to a late-night talk show host remembering the sequence of events that led to a horrific incident on camera. It’s kind of inconsequential, but it’s very funny. Finally, the fourth story is about a normal guy who happens to have a telethon devoted to saving his life (he’s fine when the story begins, but his health deteriorates rapidly), which isn’t going well. It’s tragic but morbidly hilarious. Prince has managed to keep this weird horror anthology going for two years, and it’s been keen, but he seems to be building a sneaky longer narrative, which is kind of keen to suss out. Meanwhile, Morazzo continues to make this weird world just weird enough to be unsettling while still being “realistic.” This is a nifty series, and this is probably the best collection yet!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I mean, I’d be doing more than tapping!

Kaiju Score by James Patrick (writer), Rem Broo (artist), and Mike Marts (editor). $16.99, 96 pgs, AfterShock.

Patrick decided to put two great tastes together, and introduced giant monsters to a heist comic. This is a genius idea, and it makes Kaiju Score a hell of a fun comic. Introducing an odd element to heist stories isn’t new – there was that movie about a heist in a hurricane a year or two ago – but giant monsters are cool, and our hero, Marco, figures out an interesting way to use the kaiju cover to pull off the heist. He’s been down on his luck, but he manages to get bankrolled for the job … with some caveats. He is using a safecracker who’s not really the safecracker they think she is, as someone else killed the original and took her place, he’s using an equipment guy who is seemingly a bad luck charm, and his bankroller demands that he take his pet psychopath along to keep everyone in line. Things go pear-shaped, perhaps not surprisingly, but Patrick keeps things humming along and does nice work showing how Marco is able to get out of things … until something else comes along. Broo’s art is quirky and a bit cartoonish, which keeps things light even as the heist gets a bit dark. He draws great monsters, too, which is obviously a must in a comic like this. It’s just a fun book. Who doesn’t like fun books?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Now that’s a good selfie!

Ted Naifeh returns to his old stomping grounds with The Crumrin Chronicles, which is about Courtney’s sort-of brother (not really, but I don’t want to spoil it). It’s a solid story with beautiful art, naturally, although it feels a bit too easy. Still, it’s neat that Naifeh is back in this world. Tyler Boss’s Dead Dog’s Bite is so good for so long that it’s a bit sad he doesn’t stick the landing. It’s about a missing person in a small, very odd town, and while its ending is fairly weak, Boss does create a very creepy world. E-Ratic is a nice superhero story from Kaare Andrews, so you know it looks great. It’s about a kid who has superpowers for only ten minutes at a time, so he has to be selective about when he uses them. Andrews (who’s 45) does some things about high school very well and some things completely wrong, but it’s still a vibrant, fun book. Jeff Lemire’s Family Tree ends a bit weakly, as it feels like he rushed through it (this is, unfortunately, a feature of Lemire’s work over the past few years, as it seems he has ambitious ideas that don’t sell so he has to cut them a bit short). It’s still an interesting premise and he does what he can to make it entertaining, and Phil Hester’s art is always good to see, but it still feels … truncated. Yep.

Green Arrow 80th Anniversary is another fun anthology book, with beautiful art from Javier Rodriguez, Nicola Scott, Christopher Mitten, Max Fiumara, Laura Braga, Otto Schmidt, and Andrea Sorrentino, among others, a nice Grell story and a nice Hester story, and a nice tribute to Denny O’Neil by his son that inexplicably fails to mention his editorship of Moon Knight, which had to have been the highlight of his career. It’s a nice package despite the lack of Neal Adams (who did a cover), Kevin Smith, and Brad Meltzer (I suppose we dodged bullets on those latter two, maybe?). I’m behind on my giant B.P.R.D. hardcovers, so I didn’t read Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952-1954. Sue me. Judge Dredd: Guatemala is a nice little trade, with the main story about Dredd’s trip to Guatemala (I know, shocking), and a few fun extra stories bolted on to fill out the page count. Dredd stories might not be the greatest things in the world, but most writers have one or two good Dredd stories in them, so the dude just keeps trucking along. Kane & Able is a collection of short comics by Shaky Kane and Krent Able, and it’s as bizarre as you expect it to be. The Trials of Loki is a collection of the 2010 mini-series by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Sebastián Fiumara, and it’s beautiful to look at and a quite good quasi-origin story. Although, Jeebus, people, hair grows back! Mann’s World is a decent story about four guys who go on a luxury hunting expedition on a resort planet and get in way over their heads. Victor Gischler does some good work with the group dynamic, but he messes up a bit with the larger story of what’s happening on the planet, but it’s still pretty entertaining. Resident Alien comes to an end (for now), as Harry decides he needs to go back his home planet, but maybe not? This has always been a solid series, and I certainly wouldn’t mind if Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse revisited the character, especially if the show continues for a while. James Tynion brings Something Is Killing the Children to an end, or at least a pause, as the third volume completes the story but certainly doesn’t shut the door on more. It’s been a pretty good horror yarn, but he’s also doing better work elsewhere. I bought Spawn’s Universe on a lark, because I haven’t checked in on McFarlane’s little world in a while, and it’s fine. Jim Cheung draws the main story, so it’s absolutely beautiful, and it’s easy enough to follow even though I don’t know who any of the characters are. Then we get short stories setting up McFarlane’s expanded universe, with a Medieval Spawn, a “She-Spawn” (really, Todd?), and a Gunslinger Spawn. I don’t know if I’ll check any of the new titles out, but the stories are a bit intriguing. Spider-Woman volume 2 isn’t quite as good as volume 1, partly because the Knull thing is a bit of a distraction (not a big one, but still) and it’s more about Jessica’s rage and her family, two topics that aren’t all that interesting. Karla Pacheco keeps her foot on the gas and Pere Pérez’s art remains wonderful, so I’ll see what volume 3 has in store. Brandon Thomas and Lee Ferguson reunite for Sympathy for No Devils, a nifty socio-political murder mystery in which the only human in a world of monster-ish type people is the detective trying to solve the case and how he keeps running into roadblocks. Thomas is a good writer and Ferguson is a good artist, so this is pretty good, and it’s kind of open-ended (the lead character doesn’t die, in other words), so it would be nice to get a mini-series set in this world every so often. Terminal Punks is about a punk band stuck in an airport terminal (clever, that) in which several horribly mutated animals are loose, killing every human they see. It’s a pretty fun book, with nice art by Shelby Criswell. Christopher Priest’s U.S.Agent: American Zealot is a pretty good comic, although Priest’s method of jumping around in time doesn’t always work perfectly. Georges Jeanty is a very good artist, though, and it’s a nice comic. Dan Panosian writes but only draws a few pages of An Unkindness of Ravens, in which the descendants of Salemites from the 1600s are engaged in a magical war and a new teen in town has to decide where she stands. It’s a pretty good start, and Marianna Ignazzi’s art is quite good.


Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas by Elaine Pagels. 241 pgs, Random House, 2005.

Pagels has been writing about the so-called “Gnostic Gospels” for a long time, and in this book, she focuses on the Gospel of Thomas, which is supposedly by the apostle who doubted Jesus so much he had to stick his fingers in his wounds after he was resurrected. Come on, Thomas, have some faith! The Gospel of Thomas was written around the same time as that of John, and Pagels examines the idea that they’re responses to each other. Thomas seems to endorse an evolution of faith, as an initial belief in Jesus as God is just the starting point, and people who believed in that form of Christianity often pissed off their brethren because they claimed those who were baptized were “lower-level” Christians, so to speak, while they were much more in with the cool crowd. John, the mystical Gospel, seems to have been written partly in opposition to this view, espousing the idea that once you get baptized, you’re in the club and you don’t need to evolve. This is important because of how the construction of the Bible evolved. Pagels moves on to Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons in the latter half of the second century. Irenaeus was one of the titans of early Christianity, as he began the drive toward an “orthodoxy” of thought that he called “catholic,” which means “universal.” He believed that these Thomasines running around were messing things up, and he was the first person to insist that the four Gospels we know today were “canonical” and all others should be purged. Pagels gives us good reasons for this, and while I don’t doubt that Irenaeus was genuine in his faith, she misses what has to be a major reason for his concern: power. As a bishop, Irenaeus had vast power, even in a Roman world where Christianity was still technically illegal. The Gospel of Thomas, among other things, teaches that each person needs to come to God in their own way, without the help of a priesthood, and of course Irenaeus wouldn’t dig that. There’s also the fact that Thomas and some of the other suppressed Gospels were a bit more cagey about Jesus’s resurrection, and again, Irenaeus couldn’t dig that, either. Pagels seems to imply that Irenaeus was only concerned about a spiritual struggle and he thought only those who were versed in the scriptures could assist others in coming to God, and so he had to be in control of the scriptures and the message. That might have been part of it, but we know that men in power often do many, many things to keep that power, and this has to be one of them. Thomas’s Christianity wouldn’t have been in the hands of the bishops, so it had to go. This book is an interesting examination of that.

Pagels ends with the Council of Nicaea, where Constantine told the assembled bishops to get their Bible together tout de suite, because he wanted to use it, like the bishops, to rule and he couldn’t have all these different interpretations of Jesus’s words lying around. It’s a bit shocking to me that even today, there are Christians who don’t know the history of the Bible and how much editing went into its creation. The Gospel of Thomas is just one of those books that give us a bit of a different take on what Jesus was talking about, but because a bunch of dudes a century or two later didn’t like what it said, no one knew about it for 2000 years. Such is life, I guess. This is a quick read, but Pagels knows the subject well and is a pretty good writer, so if you’ve always been interested in the history of the Bible (and who isn’t?), it’s not a bad place to start.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

The Decline and Fall of the Ottoman Empire by Alan Palmer. 306 pgs, Barnes & Noble, 1992.

Palmer’s brisk book isn’t going to supplant the classic work on the subject, Lord Kinross’s The Ottoman Centuries, but he does take an interesting tack in trying to shape his book without “projecting backward,” so to speak, from the end of the Ottoman Empire into the past, looking for clues that its fall was inevitable. Unlike Gibbon, from whom he swipes the title of the book, he doesn’t start with the knowledge that his subject is going to fail and conform to that dreary conclusion. It’s not as in-depth as some books I’ve read on the subject, but he does focus a lot more on the sultans and their governing, rather than shift to the Young Turks in the 1870s and then the CUP in the 20th century (although, naturally, he does write quite a lot about them, as they were instrumental in ending the empire). He begins with the siege of Vienne in 1683, which is not exactly the high water mark of the Ottoman Empire, but it was the final time they were able to penetrate that deep into Europe. He examines the reforms the sultans tried to initiate from the top down, some of which failed miserably but some of which worked well, and had their been better sultans in the late 19th and into the 20th centuries, the sultanate might have survived, albeit in a more constitutional form. Several sultans saw that they had to westernize the empire, and they managed that in some places, but none were willing to give up on Europe and focus more on Asia, which Palmer believes was the ultimate downfall of the sultanate. Once the Europeans became able to resist the Ottomans and eventually become stronger than the Turks, the empire in Europe was finished, but the Ottomans clung to it, neglecting the Arab portion of their territory, to dire results for the sultanate. It’s an interesting theory that I don’t think I’ve seen before, and there’s probably a good deal of truth to it. Turkey-in-Europe was always an odd thing, and despite its legacy in the Balkans (where many Albanians, for instance, are still Muslim), it feels like the Turks should have been concentrating on things eastward. Such is life, though.

Palmer is a solid writer, and he tries to give us the personalities of the sultans as they work their way through their reigns, as their personalities, for better or for worse, often had a big impact on how the government functioned. Obviously, he spends much more time in the latter days of the sultanate, which is frustrating for a reader but probably made necessary by the availability of sources (the biggest problem with the sources is, seemingly, the lack of Turkish ones – the bibliography is “select,” and Ottoman Turkish is notoriously hard to master, so I’m not sure how much Palmer used) and the fact that the end of the empire was a bigger deal than the earlier sultans’ attempts to reform it. In that way, Palmer can’t quite escape the trap he talks about early in the book, but it’s fine – the book is about the empire’s fall, after all. So from Mahmud II (d. 1839) and especially from Abdulhamid II (r. 1876-1909), the book gets much more detailed. It’s fine, but it’s still a bit frustrating.

It’s an interesting book, certainly, and it’s good to get the perspective from the sultans’ points of view rather than from the British, French, Russian, German, or Turkish Nationalist ones (which you can find in other books, and Palmer doesn’t neglect them, but they’re not paramount). So that’s pretty keen.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


Big Sky season 1 (ABC). This is pure pulp garbage, but it’s entertaining enough, so we watched the entire season to see what’s what. I don’t know if it’s been renewed and I don’t know if we’ll still watch it, but it’s not terrible. Kathryn Winnick and Kylie Bunbury are pretty good as private investigators, both of whom were banging Winnick’s husband at one point, so there’s some tension there. The first big arc was about sex trafficking, as John Carroll Lynch (who’s always solid) played a highway patrol officer who, along with his accomplice Brian Geraghty, preyed on young girls. Geraghty plays a way-weird trucker who can lure women in, and Lynch provided the network to ship them out of the country. In the first arc, Geraghty grabs Jesse James Keitel, a nonbinary sex worker, but he also grabs Natalie Alyn Lind and Jade Pettyjohn, two teenage sisters who piss him off. So there’s a big cat-and-mouse game going on as the ladies try to escape, Geraghty tries to control his murderous impulses, Lynch tries to fool the investigators, and things spiral. In the second half of the season, we shift to Ted Levine’s ranching family, as Winnick’s old boyfriend and one of Levine’s sons, Michael Raymond-James, wants her help clearing his name for an assault he claims he didn’t do. Secrets! Are! Revealed! It’s a perfectly dumb show, as characters act really idiotically in service of the plot, but it’s goofy fun. It looks great (it’s filmed in British Columbia even though it’s set in Montana), the actors are nice-looking, and there are some good guest/recurring roles (in addition to the those I’ve named, Dedee Pfeiffer is having fun as the investigators’ receptionist/researcher, Valerie Mahaffey is Geraghty’s mother, and Brooke Smith is quite good as Lynch’s wife), and it’s a pleasant way to spend 45 minutes or so (if you fast-forward through the ads or stream it). Geraghty seems far too superhumanly capable or lucky to be believed, but such is life. I can’t really recommend this show, but it’s not the worst thing out there.

Manifest season 3 (NBC). I hate shows that set up a big mystery/story and then get cut off by the network, especially after a few seasons. If it happens after the first season, I get it – it just wasn’t meant to be. But NBC gave Manifest three seasons and then canceled it, and of course it ends on a cliffhanger. It’s blowing up on Netflix, though, so maybe they’ll pick it up. It’s not a great show – like Big Sky and so many other network shows, it’s kind of dumb, characters act idiotically simply because the plot wants them to, and it goes down some useless rabbit holes – but it’s interesting, as we get a plane returning from Jamaica that disappears for five years and then lands in New York with the passengers having no idea anything has happened. Josh Dallas (who we always call Prince Charming, as that was his role on Once Upon a Time) is the main character, trying to find out what happened while reconnecting with his wife and daughter, who were on a different flight and therefore aged five years while he, his sister (Melissa Roxburgh) and son (Jack Messina) stayed the same age. The passengers get visions about things, and if they figure them out, they can help people or solve part of the puzzle about what’s going on. This season, a piece of the plane, which exploded while on the ground after their return, ended up in Cuba, and when they brought it back to the States, they discovered some odd things about it that matched a piece of Noah’s Ark that the Vatican had in their vault (yes, it’s a weird show). Dallas thinks that the passengers need to use the visions to save their lives, as they’ve figured out that people who disappear and come back (they’re not the first) die exactly when their “missing time” is up – so the passengers are going to die five years after their return. So he’s trying to figure that out, but many passengers have no interest in this and are hostile toward him. Meanwhile, the government has decided they’re too weird and they need to start rounding them up. It’s a decent enough show, with a decent cast, although the creators don’t seem to know what to do with some of them – Holly Taylor showed up this season as a passenger, and her arc was just too bizarre to deal with. Messina seems crucial to the plot, but they don’t seem to know what to do with him, either, and if the show gets picked up, it appears they might be doing something utterly bizarre with the character. I just don’t understand why NBC would cancel it. I mean, I get the ratings are probably way down, but they would have to know the trends and could tell the showrunners “Look, ratings are down and you’re on life support. Maybe wrap it up?” Or they could say that they’re giving them a short season 4 to wrap things up. I just don’t get letting a show reach a second or third season when it’s clear they need a little bit to tell their story (presumably the fifth season, which would coincide with the passengers’ expiration date, would have been the final one in a perfect world) and then telling them that it’s done. I mean, I do get it, but it’s still stupid. Oh well. We’ll see if someone else picks this up. I wouldn’t mind it, but I won’t miss the show too much.

Philly D.A. (PBS). In 2017, Larry Krasner ran for district attorney of Philadelphia, which was a notable development because Krasner had been a defense attorney for decades, but he wanted to reform the criminal justice system and couldn’t do that from outside the system, so he ran for D.A. and won pretty handily. This 7-episode series is about him trying to reform the justice system and the roadblocks he comes up against. He decides to do a few things once he gets into office that he thinks won’t be too hard to accomplish: his office stops prosecuting minor drug offenses, like small amounts of possession, and a lot of sex work; he begins a campaign to end cash bail; he begins to reform the parole system. Philadelphia is the “most incarcerated” city in the country, and Krasner believes a good deal of it is for minor drug possession and because judges set inordinately high bails, so people sit in jail until their trial. Some people are on parole for decades, and they can’t do much in their lives because they’re tied to the parole system. Krasner begins doing this, and the controversy explodes. The cops don’t like him at all, and many judges don’t either. He has statistics to back him up, but we know people don’t care about math. It’s a very good documentary, mainly because while the filmmakers are obviously on Krasner’s side (as most people should be, because the way we fight crime in this country is jacked up), but they don’t always show him in a good light and they allow his opponents a lot of time to talk. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police, who looks like Jabba the Hutt with whiter skin, is the primary villain, always ranting about Krasner’s policies and barely concealing his deep racism, but most of the other opponents aren’t as cartoonish. There’s a police captain who worries about how Krasner’s policies impact the neighborhoods, there’s a judge who think he’s meddling too much in things that aren’t his purview, there’s the lawyer in his office who doesn’t understand the changes to their juvenile policies. She’s interesting, because she’s actually asking questions about the changes Krasner is making, but it seems like his people don’t have great answers for her (she eventually resigns). What’s fascinating about the opponents is that they’re all about power, even when they try to talk about victims. A judge actually says that nobody’s going to tell him what to do (even if it’s wrong), while a city councilman asks Krasner why they should change because that’s how the system has always worked (of course, the point is that it doesn’t work). The FOP wants Krasner to get the death penalty for a pair of cop-killers, but Pennsylvania hasn’t executed anyone in decades and it’s more symbolic, but the dead cop’s sister and mother want the death penalty. The FOP never asks the dead cop’s girlfriend and mother of his kid, who doesn’t want the death penalty, because the union wants to exercise their power. Krasner himself isn’t always the most likeable person, which is why this show is so interesting. He has data to back up his theories, but he’s not all that great with people (he’s not a politician, in other words, just a lawyer used to arguing in court), so he doesn’t always come off as caring about his constituents. It’s a very interesting series, and it makes very good points about criminal justice in this country and why it needs to change. Krasner was re-elected pretty easily this past May, so he must be doing something right. It will be interesting to see how he and other progressive D.A.s (some of which the show mentions briefly) move forward with this. The old way ain’t working, so we need to try something else!

Mare of Easttown (HBO). Speaking of Philly-centered shows, we watched Kate Winslet’s detective series, which is set in a fictional town in Delaware County, PA, just west of Philadelphia. Everyone talked about this show because of Winslet’s Philadelphia accent, which is fine. I grew up north of Philly, and while I might have an accent, I don’t have a good Philly one – my mother says “wudder” for water and “furry” for ferry, but that’s about it for her, and my sister and I didn’t pick that up (my dad is from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, so they definitely don’t have a Philly accent) – but I heard it a lot when I was growing up, and the cast does a pretty good job with it. It’s a decent enough show – the bad guy isn’t too obvious, but it’s not about the bad guy, it’s about how families can uplift you and strangle you all at once, and it’s also about the perils of addiction, no matter what the drug is. Winslet is predictably phenomenal, but the entire cast is really good. Julianne Nicholson is Mare’s best friend, Jean Smart is her mother, Angourie Rice is her daughter, Guy Pearce is her new lover, Evan Peters is her partner … it’s a stacked cast, honestly. We get some of the typical things in a cop show – the most annoying was when Mare gets suspended, but at least it’s for something that isn’t really germane to the case, and while she keeps working the murder, at least she’s trying to be sneaky about it. I was also glad that there weren’t any feints toward some vast conspiracy about the murder – usually those things don’t pan out and it’s just a personal thing, and the show never even pretends it’s anything else than what it is. Not everything comes together, and I hope that’s deliberate, because some things in life are messy and unexplained and make no sense, so why shouldn’t the show be too? It’s one of these “bleak” shows, true (mostly because of the lighting and the way the show is shot, because it’s filmed in some nice places that don’t look all that nice), but what elevates it is that it’s often very funny – not too much, but even when things in life suck, there are moments of humor, and the show doesn’t forget that. It’s a good show. It’s not great, but it’s always nice to see a great cast just cook, and that’s what’s going on here.

Happy Endings (ABC/HBO). This is the latest sitcom we watched with my daughter, who still can only hang around with us watching television for 20-30 minutes, tops (we watched the Friends reunion and I was shocked she actually managed 100 minutes with us!), and it remains a wildly funny show. Unlike some other brilliant short-lived shows, this actually made it to 58 episodes, which was nice. The cast – the “anti-Friends” – is uniformly wonderful, and the writing is sharp and hilarious. Elisha Cuthbert, gorgeous as ever, is the most surprising cast member, as she reveals a tremendous gift for comedy throughout the show, and Zachary Knighton, playing Dave, is probably the weak link, but it’s more that the character’s supposed to be kind of douchey rather than Knighton not playing him well. Eliza Coupe is superb as the A-type Jane (Cuthbert’s older sister), Damon Wayans Jr. is excellent as her upwardly mobile husband, Adam Pally is the least “gay” gay dude in history, and Casey Wilson is the scatter-brained and man-crazy Penny. The writers don’t shy away from the Friends comparison – in one episode, Wayans actually calls them by the Friends characters’ names as a joke – but the show is far more clever and caustic than Friends was. They seem to be aware that they’re in a sitcom, at least to a degree – at one point, they mock Cuthbert’s role in 24, and at another, Penny can’t believe that her boyfriend’s friends don’t act like people in a sitcom – and that makes the show more interesting than less self-aware ones. Plus, the Russo brothers, who directed some of the very good Marvel movies, were executive producers and occasional directors on the show. That’s pretty keen. It’s streaming on HBO Max, so check it out if you haven’t yet!


It’s time to take a look at the Golden Age of Reprints … but it’s a bit disappointing this month. I only got one, and it’s one I didn’t even want. My store got the Treasury Edition of Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles but didn’t order it specifically for anyone (which they often do). So the dude asked me if I wanted it. I suspected I already had it, but giant Kirby art is so sweet. It turns out I do have it (Marvel released a nice hardcover of Kirby’s 1970s Cap run a while back and included these stories), but what the hell. So that’s my only Olde-Tyme Reprint this month. I’ve already gotten one in July, though, so we’ll see about that!

Let’s see what I spent this month!

2 June: $140.46
9 June: $154.41
16 June: $116.19
23 June: $120.54
30 June: $66.76

Monthly total: $598.36
YTD: $3769.89

Well, isn’t that fun? Sheesh. I have to re-assess my life choices, don’t I?

Here are the publishers from whom I purchased comics in June:

AfterShock: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
AWA/Upshot: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Black Cat: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Boom! Studios: 3 (1 single issue, 2 trade paperbacks)
Cat-Head Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Conundrum Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
DC: 2 (2 single issues)
Dark Horse: 7 (5 single issues, 2 trade paperbacks)
Fantagraphics: 3 (2 graphic novels, 1 single issue)
Image: 7 (1 graphic novel, 3 single issues, 3 trade paperbacks)
Mad Cave: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Marvel: 6 (1 “classic” reprint, 5 trade paperbacks)
New York Review Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Oni Press: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Rebellion/2000AD: 1 (1 trade paperback)
SelfMadeHero: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Top Shelf: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Viz: 2 (2 manga volumes)

Here’s a breakdown:

1 “classic” reprint (34)
2 manga (4)
9 OGNs (45)
12 single issues (56)
19 TPBs (83)

Here’s the companies from whom I’ve bought so far this year:

Dark Horse: 35
Image: 28
Marvel: 23
DC: 16
Boom! Studios: 12
AfterShock: 8
IDW: 8
AWA/Upshot: 7
Scout: 7
Fantagraphics: 6
Titan: 5
Vault: 5
Rebellion/2000AD: 4
Viz Media: 4
Behemoth: 3
Mad Cave Publishing: 3
Oni Press: 3
Abrams ComicArts: 2
Archaia: 2
Black Mask: 2
Humanoids: 2
Magnetic Press: 2
21 Pulp: 2
Archie Comics: 1
Black Cat: 1
Cat-Head Comics: 1
ComicMix: 1
Conundrum Press: 1
Floating World Comics: 1
Gallery 13: 1
Hermes Press: 1
Hyperion: 1
Iron Circus Comics: 1
Keylight Books: 1
Legendary: 1
New York Review Comics: 1
Papercutz: 1
Plough Publishing: 1
Red 5 Comics: 1
SelfMadeHero: 1
Top Shelf: 1
A Wave Blue World: 1


This is later than I usually like to post these, because I’ve been busy. My daughter is going to summer camp, so I have to drive her there four days a week, and it’s about 22½ miles on way, so I’m putting 90 miles on the van just driving her to camp, and it takes about two total hours each day. Plus, I’m working a little more because everyone where I work is taking vacations at the same time (my daughter’s PT has the theory that so many people have saved time from 2020 that they’re taking very long vacations because they can, and while we don’t have saved time at the place I work, I imagine some of the people are taking long vacations because they haven’t in a while, so they want to get away for longer). I’ve also been trying to keep up with the graphic novel reviews – I began them in May, but July comes up quickly, so right now I’m only about three weeks ahead and I don’t think I’ll get through all the ones I have before I run out of time, in which case I’ll just save them for December when I review the second half of the year. Yes, I have a system! So I’m a bit late, and I apologize. Our Previews post will be typically late as well, although Travis could have started that if he chose (as of today, he hasn’t yet). I’m sure his beard grooming takes up a lot of his time, so we shouldn’t pick on him too much!

Summer in Arizona is never fun, of course, but we’re doing fine. We’re certainly not in as dire straits as Greg Hatcher was a few weeks ago, when the heat wave wrecked the Northwest and their un-air-conditioned buildings. It’s monsoon season here, so the humidity is a bit higher than usual, but not too bad. A few weeks ago we had 115º+ days with a bit more humidity, and it was brutal just going outside. Now, however, the temperature has come down a bit (106-110 range) and the humidity has gone down a bit, so it’s still unpleasant but not as awful as it was. I hate using air conditioning in the car, because it’s wasteful, but when it hits about 112 it actually hurts to drive around, so I keep the windows down until it hits that. People think I’m crazy, but I do like the wind.

My daughter is doing a bit better not that school is out, and she’s going to Pennsylvania next week to see her grandparents and her cousin, whom she likes. My mom and dad are taking them to the Jersey shore, so that should be fun for them. We’re hoping to head to PA in October to see friends and family, so we’ll see what happens there. Everyone we’d want to see has been vaccinated, so I don’t think we’ll have any problems, but there are still so many stupid people that I still worry. Now we have conservatives whining that the government is going to take away their guns and Bibles (nice dichotomous pairing there) when they “come for you” to vaccinate you. I worry about the stupid people sometimes. How do they manage to tie their shoes?

Finally, my wife got AirPods recently, so now she can ignore me more thoroughly. Whenever I see them, I become Elaine Benes:

I hope everyone is doing well and staying safe! I linked to the Marvel Snapshots page on Amazon below (where it’s even a better bargain!), and remember that if you use that link, even for something else, we get a bit of it. There’s also a donation button on the right at the top of the page – the “Atomic Top Jar” – if you want to chip in some money. Absolutely no pressure, though! Thanks for reading!


  1. jccalhoun

    Far Sector was really great. The ending is rushed and wasn’t entirely fulfilling. I guess it was meant to be ongoing so that makes sense.

    It was really interesting to read this last year as many of the issues would come out just after similar events happened in the real world. Obviously the issues were written ahead of time so it is more remarkable.

    1. Greg Burgas

      I didn’t know that Far Sector was supposed to be an ongoing. It feels like it works pretty well as a 12-issue thing, but maybe it was altered a bit when it became clear it wasn’t going past 12. Dunno.

      I always wonder about timing of certain issues with regard to real-world things. Obviously they seep into fiction, but I agree that the timing is always interesting.

      1. I am 99% sure that Far Sector was supposed to be a 12 issue series from the get-go. If it was supposed to be ongoing, they changed it very early on, possibly when the series went bimonthly. I would guess the ending got rushed because the character started getting featured in the Future State stuff and the post G-Mozz Green Lantern series.

        1. Bright-Raven

          Correct it was always meant to be a 12 issue series.

          Yes, the Future State / current GL storyline played a small hand in things, but if the last couple of issues of FAR SECTOR seemed rushed it’s likely more because Jemisin’s novels series The Inheritence Trilogy and the Broken Earth series were in negotiations for being optioned for film and television and were signed deals in March and June 2021 respectively and she’s heading up writing and development on both of those projects.

  2. tomfitz1

    Burgas: I’ve read some of your list.

    I started reading 8 trades of THE IMMORTAL HULK and my gawd! This book is insane!

    THE ICE-CREAM MAN is also a twisted guilt pleasure read,

    FAMILY TREE, well I think that Lemire could have done this series a bit more to give it justice.

    I watched BIG SKY mostly because of Kathryn Winnick (gotta love her in VIKINGS), but not sure if I’ll stick around for season 2.

    Did watch some of MANIFEST season 1, but got bored real quick.

    I know what you mean, though, by abrupt cancellations. They cancelled DEBRIS and AMERICAN GODS much to my annoyance.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Tom: Yeah, Hulk is pretty weird.

      I didn’t mind the cancellation of Debris, mainly because it was only one season. Yes, it was annoying, but it obviously didn’t get enough traction. I don’t mind those because even if they’re interesting (and Debris was all right), I still haven’t gotten that invested. But to let a show go a few years and then get rid of it without giving the showrunners a heads up seems weird.

      I watched the first season of American Gods, liked it, but then read several people who said the second was really, really terrible, so I didn’t keep up. Sorry I can’t share your annoyance! 🙂

  3. Edo Bosnar

    “Alan Brennert writes an excellent Namor story (…).”

    Well, duh. There is no such thing as a bad or even mediocre Brennert story.
    That said, yeah, I’ve been wanting to read the Namor story since I heard about it last year.

  4. I got one Immortal Hulk, wasn’t impressed, got Keeper of the Door and was, so now I’m back to V1 to see it all.
    I read V1 of Courtney Crumrin. Insufferable and uninteresting.
    The more Big Cosmic Picture Manifest got, the less I liked it — I’m no more broken up about it’s axing than I am Debris. Apparently part of the problem is that if it went to streaming for S4 NBC wants it on Peacock but the previous episodes are all on Netflix.
    Norman Davies’ “Vanished Kingdoms” discusses how we assume that the countries we have now must have been better in some way than the countless countries (Burgundy, Galicia, Sardinia) that didn’t last.

    1. Greg Burgas

      Fraser: I like how NBC would cancel it but still want it on Peacock for streaming. Don’t cancel it if you still want it, ya galoots!

      I love that Davies book. I just re-read it to my daughter as part of her “going-to-sleep” ritual.

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