Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

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

He had not the benefit of existential terminology; but what he felt was really a very clear case of the anxiety of freedom — that is, the realization that one is free and the realization that being free is a situation of terror. (John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant’s Woman)


All Night & Every Day by Ray Fawkes (writer), Andrea Frittella (artist), Sara Colella (colorist), Matt Krotzer (letterer), and Mike Marts (editor). $7.99, 40 pgs, AfterShock Comics.

Ray Fawkes is a maddeningly oblique writer, which is both the best and worst thing about him. When he’s writing his weird, philosophical meanderings about people across time and space, being oblique is actually kind of cool, as it allows the reader to engage with the characters on a far deeper level than with a usual plot-driven book. When he ventures into more genre stuff, it can be frustrating, as something like this, which is a bit of a philosophical meandering but is more straight horror, becomes annoyingly unclear and therefore less effective. It’s not a bad hook at all: Michaela goes out with three of her friends to a house party, an outing they almost have to drag her to because she’s still obsessed with the disappearance of her fiancé two years earlier, and she’s depressed because the cops are going to stop looking for him. But she goes, and almost immediately she wanders away and finds herself trapped in a “house” with infinite rooms, in each of which something terrible is happening, all connected to people partying far too much. She encounters violence at a wedding, a sad drunk who claims she’s from 1977, sado-masochistic Nazis celebrating the new year – you know, the usual stuff you find at a party. Naturally, she comes across her fiancé, Philip, who’s been trapped there for two years. They try to get out of the place, with Michaela believing that they can even though the more lucid people they find tell them there’s no escape. Philip keeps telling her that she can’t trust anyone and that people disappear quickly so they have to stick together, but can she even trust Philip? He says as long as they can get to a door, they’re fine, because if you close a door and open it again, it leads to a different place than what was on the other side originally, but eventually they come to a room with no doors – they close the door behind them and it disappears. A bunch of people who look like rejects from the casting call for that great Mad Max/Game of Thrones crossover we never got seize them and take them to a throne, on which sits a dude wearing a crown of twigs. Whenever there’s a person wearing a crown made out of something other than good, solid gold, you know you’re in trouble! In this place, Michaela will learn the secret of the place. Or … will she?

See, this is where Fawkes can be frustrating. From the moment we meet him, we’re conditioned by pop culture to expect that Philip cheated on Michaela in some way, and that’s why he was late to the rehearsal dinner for the wedding and ended up in this hellscape. It’s clear he did something, and some elliptical statements made during the course of their travels implies that it was cheating. But Fawkes never comes out and says it, and Philip comes off as weak, not necessarily evil, so why was he condemned to this place? It doesn’t seem like hell, or a place where necessarily bad people go, but there does seem to be an element of punishment to it, and it’s unclear why Philip is being punished. He does try to explain, but Fawkes doesn’t really let him, and it’s frustrating. Michaela also doesn’t seem to be completely blameless, but that might just be Philip projecting onto her (although what he says does seem to describe her, at least a little bit). I know I’m being oblique, because I don’t want to spoil this completely, but also because Fawkes is being oblique, so it’s difficult to really parse what’s going on when things reach a climax. It’s frustrating, because the overall theme of the book – trying to move on with your life – is obvious, but the particulars make it vexing. Philip is obviously not dead, so Michaela isn’t wrong to want the police to keep looking for him, and if he did cheat on her, is that a reason for him to be punished in such a manner? I’m not saying he’s not a douchebag, but being a douchebag isn’t the best reason for someone to wander a never-ending party with no hope of ever getting out. Or maybe it is.

Anyway, the art is nice, and the plot is compelling, and even some of the obliqueness – the weird dude on the throne is an enigma – isn’t bad, but the central mystery remains one, and from what we can gather, it’s a bit of a dull mystery about a dude who couldn’t keep it in his pants. Maybe? I do like these fancy, larger-than-usual “Prestige Format” comics that AfterShock does, so I hope they keep doing them even if I don’t love this one!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Try a shotgun, man!

Basilisk volume 3 by Cullen Bunn (writer), Jonas Scharf (artist), Alex Guimarães (colorist), Ed Dukeshire (letterer), and Ramiro Portnoy (editor). $14.99, 88 pgs, Boom! Studios.

Um … yeah. I didn’t actually read this, because for some reason, I never got volume 2 and I don’t want to read volume 3 until I have volume 2, and my retailer ordered it for me but I don’t know when it’s coming in. So, instead … Hey, remember back when I read enough single issues that I would do these weekly? And occasionally I would do some weird shit and people would either love it or really, really hate it? Well, in honor of those long ago days (I can’t believe I used to buy enough single issues and have the time to write about them!), here’s probably my favorite poem by one of my favorite poets:

Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
I was neither at the hot gates
Nor fought in the warm rain
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
Bitten by flies, fought.
My house is a decayed house,
And the Jew squats on the window sill, the owner,
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.
I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.

Signs are taken for wonders. ‘We would see a sign!’
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger

In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering judas,
To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk
Among whispers; by Mr. Silvero
With caressing hands, at Limoges
Who walked all night in the next room;

By Hakagawa, bowing among the Titians;
By Madame de Tornquist, in the dark room
Shifting the candles; Fräulein von Kulp
Who turned in the hall, one hand on the door. Vacant shuttles
Weave the wind. I have no ghosts,
An old man in a draughty house
Under a windy knob.

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Think now
History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors
And issues, deceives with whispering ambitions,
Guides us by vanities. Think now
She gives when our attention is distracted
And what she gives, gives with such supple confusions
That the giving famishes the craving. Gives too late
What’s not believed in, or is still believed,
In memory only, reconsidered passion. Gives too soon
Into weak hands, what’s thought can be dispensed with
Till the refusal propagates a fear. Think
Neither fear nor courage saves us. Unnatural vices
Are fathered by our heroism. Virtues
Are forced upon us by our impudent crimes.
These tears are shaken from the wrath-bearing tree.

The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours. Think at last
We have not reached conclusion, when I
Stiffen in a rented house. Think at last
I have not made this show purposelessly
And it is not by any concitation
Of the backward devils.
I would meet you upon this honestly.
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
Since what is kept must be adulterated?
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
How should I use it for your closer contact?

These with a thousand small deliberations
Protract the profit of their chilled delirium,
Excite the membrane, when the sense has cooled,
With pungent sauces, multiply variety
In a wilderness of mirrors. What will the spider do
Suspend its operations, will the weevil
Delay? De Bailhache, Fresca, Mrs. Cammel, whirled
Beyond the circuit of the shuddering Bear
In fractured atoms. Gull against the wind, in the windy straits
Of Belle Isle, or running on the Horn,
White feathers in the snow, the Gulf claims,
And an old man driven by the Trades
To a sleepy corner.

Tenants of the house,
Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season.

Damn, Tom. Preach it!

Creepshow volume 1. $14.99, 100 pgs, Image.

A horror anthology by several excellent creators? Yeah, I can get behind that. Here’s the line-up, and you can judge for yourself!

“Take One” by Chris Burnham, Adriano Lucas, and Pat Brosseau (who letters the entire book, so I won’t mention him again!): It’s Halloween, and some punk kids take all the candy from the front of a house that supposedly abandoned. FOOLISH PUNKS! Of course it doesn’t go well for them. Burnham has fun drawing some nice gore.

“Shingo” by Paul Dini, Stephen Langford, John McCrea, and Mike Spicer: Two obnoxious divorced parents fight over who spoils their daughter more, and the mom ends up hiring Shingo for her birthday party, which isn’t a good idea as Shingo is … something unusual (she just thinks it’s a dude in a costume, but it ain’t). Havoc is wreaked, violence is committed, and the funny thing is, even the daughter doesn’t come off great. Who will survive‽‽‽‽ McCrea has way too good a time drawing this.

“The Gorgahmorahh Tree” by David and Maria Lapham and Trish Mulvihill: A girl is obsessed with a giant tree in her backyard, and when her parents are horrible, the tree speaks to her and tells her what to do. It’s not “Be nice and make them cookies,” I can tell you that much!

“Creator’s Rites” by Steve Foxe and Erica Henderson: The creator of an old comic is taken care of in a home by a seemingly nice dude … who just wants the money he thinks the old dude has. Of course the dude’s creation speaks to him, and tells him to do horrible things!

“Hair” by Francesco and L Marlow Francavilla: An elderly barber knows something of the horrors that occur in the woods around his idyllic town, but he’s not telling anyone! Man, Francavilla should be doing more work.

“The Bridge” by Ariela Kristantina, Jorge Corona, and Jean-Francois Beaulieu: A social media celebutante ignores the warnings of the locals about entering a temple, and what do you know? That was a mistake!

“Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are” by Kyle Starks and Fran Galán: A woman whose friends were killed by vampires when she was a kid is obsessed with staying away from them, only to discover that vampires are pretty danged patient!

“La Mascara de la Muerte” by Henry Barajas, Dani, and Brad Simpson: This one actually annoyed me just a tiny bit. A wrestler wants to use her father’s mask because she wants to be a legend like him, but her grandmother says the mask does terrible things to people and won’t allow it. Of course the wrestler takes it, has a great match, and terrible things happen to her. But … why does the grandmother have the mask on display so prominently? Why not get rid of it or, if she can’t (because there’s a curse or something), hide it away so the young woman can’t find it? It makes no sense – don’t show off the mask that ruins lives, grandma! I mean, duh!

“Thirst Trap” by Steve Orlando, Marianna Ignazzi, and Fabiana Mascolo: A young man sells his soul to stay young and beautiful, which never works out, right? It doesn’t here!

“Husk” by Clay McLeod Chapman, Anwita Citriya, and Jordie Bellaire: The adopted daughter of a fancy Southern family is preparing for her debutant ball, but it turns out the family should have been a bit pickier about where they adopted her from, because things get nasty at the party!

I dig stuff like this. It gives a lot of creators the chance to do some fun stuff, and it seems like artists who might not want to do longer stuff are fine with shorter stories like these. I hope we get more!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Not gonna end well

Damage Control: New Employee Handbook by Adam F. Goldberg (writer), Hans Rodionoff (writer), Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie (writer), Will Robson (artist), Nathan Stockman (artist), Jay Fosgitt (artist), Ruth Redmond (colorist), Clayton Cowles (letterer), and Daniel Kirchhoffer (collection editor). $17.99, 110 pgs, Marvel.

This is a fun, humorous mini-series that has two faults: it seems to get weirdly serious at the end, when what’s going on is revealed (not too serious, but seriouser than we might expect from this kind of book), and it ends on a cliffhanger which might never get resolved. It’s frustrating, of course, but such is life in the Marvel (and DC) U. You don’t expect things to be simple, do you?

For the most part, though, Goldberg and Rodionoff (McDuffie – or Fullerton, as that’s how her name appears in the credits – writes the back-up story in issue #1) keep things weird and light. Gus, a new employee at Damage Control, is shunted around to different divisions because he’s incompetent at everything but for some reason, he can’t be fired (that’s the big reveal at the end that’s a bit too serious for this book). So we get to see the many things Damage Control does, and the writers have fun with it. There’s a mail room incident in which an undelivered piece of mail almost causes the apocalypse; Gus’s attempts to screen out people who want to file claims with Damage Control that causes a great deal of hardship for one family; a side trip to New Jersey to deal with the Sensational Character Find of 2022, Trentonn the Terrible, who’s a giant walking catfish (seriously, he’s awesome); Gus gets paired with an R&D guy who just happens to be an ex-supervillain, and of course that leads to new villainy; and Gus is sent to the vault, where he almost causes a robot uprising. It’s best not to think about how this fits into the regular Marvel Universe, because then you don’t have to worry about Moon Knight getting coffee in the middle of the day in full costume or Frank Castle working security at DC headquarters, but it is a fun book, like all Damage Control mini-series, although the concept remains terrific and I do wish they’d be a bit more integrated into the regular Marvel U without being so goofy. Robson and Stockman do good work on the art, as they both have the cartoony style that works well on a book like this (Robson does the first two issues and Stockman the last three, and I don’t know why one couldn’t do the entire thing). I like Damage Control, so I enjoy reading the infrequent series in which it’s the focus, but this is just a slightly silly mini-series and nothing more. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that, but there’s also not much more to say about it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

How can you conquer the world if you don’t look your best?

Dark Ride volume 1: Hell Ticket by Joshua Williamson (writer), Andrei Bressan (artist), Adriano Lucas (colorist), Pat Brosseau (letterer), and Amanda LaFranco (editor). $14.99, 106 pgs, Image.

Williamson and Bressan did Birthright together, which was a terrific series, and it’s very cool that they’re working on another series together, as they’re back with Dark Ride, a story of a horror-themed amusement park and the nefarious shenanigans associated with it. This is very much in Williamson’s wheelhouse, as he seems to enjoy horror with a bizarre and even slightly goofy twist to it, and Bressan is brilliant, so I have high hopes for this series! Williamson begins with a dude in the past trying to sell his horror-themed amusement park but finding no takers, which leads his wife to insult him, which leads him to murder her and bury her in the desert. Oh dear. It is heavily implied that he built the amusement park over her grave, but maybe not – the grave is near Las Vegas, and at one point a character has to make a quick trip to Los Angeles, so maybe, but it’s not important right now! Anyway, in the present, a kid named Owen gets a job at the park, which is his dream because he loves it so much. Meanwhile, the founder’s son (who’s named Samhain, because of course) is trying to figure out a way to keep revenue flowing into the company, as people are not as keen on the horror as they used to be. His sister, Halloween (sure, why not?) is some kind of celebrity, and she shows up to “help” her brother, although they don’t like each other very much and think the other is incompetent. Their father, Arthur Dante, is still around, although nobody sees him much and it’s clear something weird is going on with him. And there’s a YouTuber making a documentary about the park, and that’s never a character you want to be in this kind of comic. Anyway, Owen goes missing, his sister comes to the park to investigate, and things are getting freaky and bloody. It’s a good hook – we think Owen is going to be the main character, but it turns out his sister is; we think Samhain and Halloween are kind of evil, but they’re really just jerks and it appears they might be in more danger than they think; we think that the horror is going to overwhelm everything, but Williamson does a nice job keeping things relatively grounded, as Samhain, for instance, is worried about the business side of the park a lot more than we might expect. Plus, I love the fact that the worker Owen meets on his first day just seems to do her job and remain unaffected by the weirdness around her. That will change, I think, but it’s nice for now. The fact that this is a working amusement park helps keep the weirdness weird, so to speak, so the horror, when it comes, feels a bit more horrific.

I’m not sure why DC or Marvel hasn’t snapped up Bressan yet (my hope is that he’s not interested), but I’m glad, because Birthright was gorgeous, and so far, so is this, and if Bressan is in for the long run, that’s a very good thing. He does such a nice job with both the mundane stuff and the weird stuff, and it gives the comics he works on a nice verisimilitude, which makes the strange stuff pop much more impressively. His characters are just normal, regular people – even Samhain and Halloween – so when the weird stuff starts happening, it comes from a bizarre place that feels out of place in this world, even in a world of a horror-themed amusement park. Obviously, he gets to have fun with the horror stuff, and the volume ends on a particularly nasty sequence, but Bressan is also good enough to make things just the slightest bit goofy, which makes him a good fit with Williamson’s writing. I mean, the place has mascots, and mascots are a bit odd even when they’re not menacing, so Bressan just tweaks that a little so that the mascots are unsettling, but we can’t quite put our fingers on why. The way he draws Arthur Dante is done well, too, for the same reason. Much like on Birthright, the coloring is an important part of the art, and Lucas does a marvelous job – the book is generally bright, which helps when it slides into luridness, highlighting the horrific goings-on in the park. There’s a lot of red, but in different tones, and it makes everything just a bit unnerving. I expected the book to be gorgeous, and it is.

I don’t know how long Williamson and Bressan plan to go with this, but it’s a very intriguing start. I’m looking forward to more of it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Haven’t we all wanted to do this to a mascot at one time or another?

DC’s Legion of Bloom*. $9.99, 80 pgs, DC.

* Get it? GET IT‽‽‽‽‽

Hey, it’s another of DC’s themed anthologies, this one coinciding with … spring, I guess? They’ve covered the major holidays, I guess, and now they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel! But I don’t care, because it’s anthology time! Let’s do this like we did Creepshow, ‘k? K!

“Growing Pains” by Ashley Allen, Isaac Goodheart, Cris Peter, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou: Pamela Isley works at a flower shop and stands up to bullies, but the other two women she works with see only the murderous super-villain (sad face emoji)! I know it’s only a short story, but I always wonder why people freak out so much about someone like Poison Ivy. I mean, I get that she’s not a nice person, but if I found out someone I knew was killing people who are objectively bad, I don’t think I’d be too ragey. I might not hang out with them anymore, but … I mean, my daughter works in retail, and some of the people that come in are horrible, and if someone was killing them, I don’t know if I’d be angry or say something like, “Well, don’t be a dick and you won’t get killed.” That kind of attitude won’t fly in a DC comic, I know, but it feels more realistic, knowwhatImsayin?

“The Peculiar Pieces of Pierre O’Neil” by Zac Thompson, Hayden Sherman, Patricio Delpeche, and Becca Carey: Thompson gives us a Batman story in which he tracks down the Floronic Man and leaves things open for a continuing story. It’s a bit creepy, a bit unfocused (we do find out what’s going on, but it seems like it takes a back seat to the atmosphere of the piece), and it’s frustrating because of the open-ended nature of the story. However, Thompson writes good creepy stories, Sherman’s art is well done, and Jason Woodrue is downright sinister, so it’s a keen story. It would be nice if someone – it doesn’t even have to be Thompson! – could pick up on the thread, though.

“Florida Man” by Julio Anta, Jacoby Salcedo, Allen Passalaqua, and Dave Sharpe: Jaime Reyes and his buddies are in Miami, where Blue Beetle encounters the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, but with a goofy “Florida” twist. It’s a fun story, although the Beetle’s ability to create anything does feel a bit too deus ex machina. Oh well.

“The Birds and the Bees” by Cavan Scott, Atagun Ilhan, Mark Morris, Hi-Fi, and Carlos M. Mangual: This is a beautifully drawn Titans West story, with Dove, Flamebird, and Bumblebee checking out a cult run by the Queen Bee into which Hank (Hawk) has been drawn (because he’s the dumb white male of the group, so of course he falls into a cult!). Fisticuffs ensue, naturally, and it just proves, as usual, that there are so many cool characters lying around not getting used. Scott does a nice job in just a few pages and getting a nice dynamic among the four principal characters, and the Queen Bee is always a nifty villain.

“Monsters” by Kenny Porter, Brian Level, Jay Leisten, Jordan Boyd, and Steve Wands: Swamp Thing and the Flash fight an inter-dimensional creature, and the young girl it has kidnapped relates more to Mr. Thing that the Flash, for reasons. It’s a nice little story with cool art.

“Babies’ Day Out” by Calvin Kasulke, Vitor Cafaggi, and Dave Sharpe: Captain Carrot accidentally feeds his fancy carrots to his many babies, who then fly out of their apartment and he has to track them down. Of course, they manage to thwart some bad guys along the way. It’s a charming story, as you might expect.

“Frosti Reunion” by Travis Moore, Enrica Eren Angiolini, and Dave Sharpe: Wait, Steve Trevor is gay now? I mean, that’s fine, but it does feel a bit weird. And Wonder Woman is hanging out with a dark-skinned, dark-haired Siegfried, of Germanic legend? I mean, again, diversity is fine, but Siegfried is specifically Germanic. Why can’t Wonder Woman hang out with a Meso-American legendary figure? Or an African legendary figure? Or a Maori legendary figure? It’s just weird. I mean, this story mixes Norse and Greek myths for some reason, so I don’t suppose we should worry too much about it.

“We Just Have to Make It Till Spring” by Dave Wielgosz, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Tom Napolitano: This is a fairly typical “Superman Is Awesome” story that makes no sense for someone who doesn’t live in the Northeast, I guess (it’s predicated on the fact that winter sucks, but winter in Arizona is awesome), and it’s perfectly charming, but what makes it work is Rossmo’s dense art, as he really packs the pages with panels and turns a few of them into calendars, which allows him to fill up the pages with a ton of details and interesting drawings. The message is nice, but the art really makes the story work.

I like these DC anthologies, as you know. So I keep getting them!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You know, Swampy, therapy might be a healthier option for you

Deadpool by Kelly Thompson Complete Collection by Kelly Thompson (writer), Chris Bachalo (penciler), Irene Strychalski (artist), Gerardo Sandoval (artist), Kevin Libranda (artist), Wayne Faucher (inker), Tim Townsend (inker), Al Vey (inker), Jaime Mendoza (inker), Livesay (inker), Victor Olazaba (inker), Derek Fridolfs (inker), Victor Nava (inker), David Curiel (colorist), Rachelle Rosenberg (colorist), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Joe Sabino (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $24.99, 220 pgs, Marvel.

This is a bit of a mess, which isn’t terribly surprising for several reasons:

1. It got canceled after 10 issues, which does happen, of course, but it seems like it took Thompson by surprise a bit.
2. It began with Bachalo on art, and as much as I dig Bachalo, the dude is slow and seems to need a lot of inkers (seven of them in his four issues), which means you never get too much Bachalo before he’s gone from a book. Sandoval drew 5 of the final 6 issues, but he’s not quite as good as Bachalo is (although he’s pretty good). Why does Marvel put Bachalo on books when they know they won’t have him for long? Is he that big a draw?
3. I don’t know how Thompson got this book, and I’m in the bag for Kelly, so I enjoyed this, but it does feel … like maybe she didn’t really want to write a Deadpool comic? I don’t know, but there’s a weird vibe to this book. It’s tough to really express.
4. The final issue is a “King in Black” tie-in, which is bad form by Marvel, if you ask me. Stupid big events, even interrupting the end of a series, the fate of which has already been decided and therefore doesn’t need a sales boost!

Anyway, this could have been a better book. The hook – Deadpool becomes King of the Monsters because he kills the present king, and said monsters live on Staten Island, the most Deadpool-esque of all the five boroughs – is pretty good, even though it’s unclear why all the monsters live on Staten Island. In the first story, Kraven shows up to hunt monsters, and Deadpool – who decidedly does NOT want to be king, because it’s not all feasts and orgies like he thought it would be – has to fight for his subjects (it’s not the original Kraven, I guess, but either his son or a clone … wait, this doesn’t matter at all!!!!). Then he has to fight a weirdo creature from another dimension. In between, Thompson gives us one-offs of him fighting a rogue kaiju in Manhattan and trying to sneak into Krakoa (and failing). Finally, there’s the King in Black thing. None of the stories are great, but they are entertaining, and Thompson has Elsa Bloodstone co-star (Elsa Bloodstone is awesome, so I approve) and, in a very funny move, she has Gwenpool give Jeff the Land Shark to Deadpool because she’s worried that he’ll never show up again because she can’t carry a book but Wade always has a book. It’s a surprisingly poignant moment given that it features one character who knows she’s in a comic book, another who always breaks the fourth wall (even if he’s not sure he’s in a comic), and a shark with legs, but there you have it. Despite the herky-jerky nature of the stories and the abruptness of the ending, Kelly is still a good enough writer to make some things work. While I get that weird “I don’t want to be here” vibe from her writing, she’s still very talented, and she writes comics the way I want to read comics, if that makes sense (and if it doesn’t, I’ll ‘splain). Y’see, she can take things deadly seriously, but she doesn’t always, and her sense of humor is nice and twisted, so her comics are often weird and warped. She’s not afraid to poke the sacred cows – the Krakoa issue of this run is the most I’ve liked the Krakoa thing yet because Deadpool savages it (correctly, I might add). She’s also able to turn on a dime – the monster loose in Manhattan is a silly issue until it’s abruptly not, but Thompson is good enough to make the tone shift work very well. Even her Englehartian use of Jeff works because she knows when to make Jeff adorable (which he kind of always is) but also when to make him menacing (in the most adorable way possible). Obviously, Deadpool tends to be a comedic character, so his comics aren’t always super-duper serious, but the best Deadpool stories are where the writers are aware of the tragedy of being Deadpool and can weaponize it instantly. I certainly couldn’t do it, but Thompson can. So we get a somewhat goofy comic that can become deadly serious at the drop of a hat, and both are valid and hit hard. Kelly does this well, and it’s one reason why I love her writing, even when it feels like the deck is stacked against her a little and maybe, just maybe, her heart isn’t totally in it. (Also, there’s too much grawlix in this book. That bothers me a lot more than it should, be there you go.)

As for the art … Bachalo does his thing, which I love even as I acknowledge that some panels are complete gibberish and cannot be “read” very well, and Sandoval is fine but the tiniest bit “early-Image” for me. His bone beast thing is nice, though. Everyone has a shit-ton of fun drawing Jeff, naturally, and both Bachalo and Sandoval do a pretty good job with the monsters. It’s a kinetic book, and the pacing by both artists is quite nice, although occasionally the scale feels a bit off. There’s not a ton to say about the art – it’s good, solid superhero stuff. You know the kind!

The hook had potential, and it’s Deadpool, so I’m not sure why this didn’t last. You can’t keep a good Deadpool down, naturally, and he’s back with another series. Kelly has moved on, as well. This is just a weird pitstop in both their lives!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You can’t kill Deadpool, because he’s … unarmed

Defenders Beyond by Al Ewing (writer), Javier Rodríguez (artist), Lee Garbett (artist), Antonia Fabela (colorist), Joe Caramagna (letterer), Joe Sabino (letterer), and Daniel Kirchhoffer (collection editor). $15.99, 112 pgs, Marvel.

I don’t own the first Ewing/Rodríguez Defenders collab, and I’m not sure why. I’ll have to track it down. It doesn’t seem to matter much, as this is a self-contained story, but I like Ewing, and I like Rodríguez, so I’m not sure why I skipped that.

Anyway, this is … good? I mean, here’s the problem: the Defenders don’t actually do anything, nor do they really have an enemy to fight, so this is a strange book. Ewing begins at the Blue Marvel’s underwater lab, where a spell that Dr. Strange left behind is talking to him. The spell brings the Defenders together – America Chavez, Loki, Taaia (Galactus’s mother), and Tigra, telling them that when reality is threatened, the Defenders must form. So far, so good. They’re thrown through time and space and meet Eternity, who tells them that when they go outside of its “own being,” they’ll see its enemy. They start their journey and meet the Beyonder. But he’s not the enemy! They keep moving … up? through reality (the issues of the book are named after the Kabbalistic Tree of Life) and meet the Phoenix. But it’s not the enemy! Glorian? NOPE! God? I mean, sort of, but no sir! Loki? I mean, any story with Loki has a pretty good chance of ending up with Loki as the bad guy, but nope! They just keep moving up through reality, overcoming obstacles, sure, but nothing is threatening Eternity in any way, and Loki’s gambit at the end is pretty weak and easily turned aside (not by the Defenders, but just by appealing to Loki’s logic). It’s a bit odd, because Ewing feints to a lot of big things, and the non-team does have to fight some pretty powerful entities, but in the end, this is more of a philosophical book about why defending reality matters more than the actual defense of reality. Ewing has always been a bit of a strange writer, so this isn’t the weirdest thing in the world, but it’s still a bit unusual that Marvel would let him write a big, reality-defending epic in which there is literally no threat to reality. Such is life. Ewing does get to show off his knowledge of Marvel history, which he seems to enjoy (he references two (!) back-up stories from Classic X-Men), but if you don’t know about them, it’s not a big deal – Ewing might be a show-off, but he’s also good enough to explain things within the story well. He also makes the Beyonder and his ilk (the other Beyonders!) kind of goofy, which is fun. Again, it’s just an odd comic. Not bad, just odd.

The biggest reason to buy it, naturally, is Rodríguez’s amazing art. He’s so good, not only at design, but in laying the pages out in inventive but easily legible fashion. As the Defenders move further out into weirdness, Rodríguez does a wonderful job keeping up with Ewing’s imagination, and the book is a true visual feast. When the Beyonder speaks of his origins, he goes Full Kirby on us, and the Beyonder’s home dimension is bounded by metal pipes that form the panel borders for that section, forming a bit of a cage that the Defenders then burst out of when they have to. In the issue with the Phoenix, each Defender is trapped in a different reality, and Rodríguez does superb work with shading, Zip-A-Tone effects, and coloring to create these realities, which the Phoenix is able to fly around and outside of, given its powers. When the team meets God, Rodríguez uses bigger panels and wider layouts to give an idea of how expansive the realm is, which helps when Loki tries to step outside it. This is a stunning piece of comics art, and while the story is quite fun (despite its meandering nature), the real star of the book is Rodríguez. It’s fun to just stare at the pages without reading them and revel in the drawings.

Yes, there are some issues with the story. Yes, it’s not quite as revelatory as Ewing might want it to be. But … it’s an interesting attempt at something, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. That ain’t bad!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

America Chavez will punch you across dimensions!!!!!

Do a Powerbomb! by Daniel Warren Johnson (writer/artist), Mike Spicer (colorist), and Rus Wooton (letterer). $24.99, 165 pgs, Image.

Johnson is another of those creators who Marvel or DC should just hire to do whatever he wants – DC did this for him with that Wonder Woman thing (which I’m looking forward to), and I hope they keep doing it, because the dude knows how to make great comics. There’s nothing too, too shocking about Do a Powerbomb!, his ode to professional wrestling, but it’s a terrific comic because Johnson knows how to make terrific comics. His pacing is phenomenal, his twists are a bit surprising but not out of left field, he knows that certain endings have to be avoided to keep things “realistic” (as realistic as a wrestling tournament in another dimension can be), and he makes sure the characters are interesting enough that we’re invested in them. Plus, he’s an amazing artist, so he can take all those clever storytelling tricks and simply draw the hell out of the comic, and you get a superb book. Easy-peasy, right?

Johnson begins with Yua Steelrose versus Cobrasun for the Tokyo Grand World Heavyweight Title. In the ring, Cobrasun slips on the ropes when he’s about to do his finishing move and falls, breaking Yua’s neck in the process. Yua’s daughter, Lona, is ringside, and she’s a bit upset by this. When she grows up, she wants to be a wrestler, but her father doesn’t want her to be, which is understandable given what happened to Yua. A weirdo dude accosts her one night, tells her he’s a necromancer and can restore her mother to life if she wins a wrestling tournament he’s setting up in another dimension. She needs a partner, however (it’s a tag-team tournament), so she approaches Cobrasun, who’s been a big down on his luck since accidentally killing Lona’s mom. He reluctantly agrees to be her partner (it turns out the necromancer approached him, too), but then we find out that – dum dum DUMMMMM!!!! – he’s really her dad in disguise!!!! (He wears a wig and never takes off his mask.) So he’s fighting for the same thing she is! Unfortunately for them, the necromancer, who soaked up Earth culture from his other dimension, doesn’t know pro wrestling is scripted, so his tournament is “real,” and Lona and her dad (she finds out, of course, but not for a while) have to step up their game and actually fight. Things get … violent, to say the least (it’s actually the one issue I have with the book – Lona and her dad would seem to be dead or crippled for life at several moments, but they always get up!). They fight some odd teams, including two orangutans, but they make it to the final, where things get interesting, and they eventually end up against a super-duper opponent that I’m not going to spoil. Suffice it to say, it’s intense. Johnson does a terrific job making even the silliest characters in the tournament relatable – they’re all in the fight because they have someone they want to bring back from the dead, remember, so even the seemingly evil wrestlers are in some kind of pain. Johnson knows that you need villains, but you also need to be somewhat invested in characters, so he manages to make the “villains” real people, even if they’re jerks. It’s well done.

Of course, his art is amazing. His attention to detail is stunning, so we get terrific crowd shots that show all manner of people at the events, and his wrestling costume design is excellent, as well. His work on faces is great, too – Lona’s dad is wearing a mask most of the time, but Johnson is able to show his roiling emotions perfectly. The action is, of course, extremely fierce, as Johnson excels at it. He shows the brutality of the fights wonderfully and the athleticism of the wrestlers magnificently – again, I have my doubts if some of the people would survive what Johnson puts them through, but it’s all about suspension of disbelief, right? (And, to be fair, they are often injured quite a bit.) He uses some weird perspective shots and short, frantic brushstrokes to heighten the action, and the final fight is a ballet of violence leading to an extraordinarily marvelous moment and devastating conclusion. It’s an absolutely gorgeous book, and it certainly makes Johnson’s story work better.

For a book that’s a lot of big ol’ fights, Do a Powerbomb! (mustn’t forget the exclamation point!) is an excellent comic, full of great human moments (and, I guess, ape moments) that teach the characters a bit about life and what it means to love someone and miss them. Plus, there’s a shit-ton of violence, and we all like that, right?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Orangutan: 1, Human: 0
Celebrating her Oscar win!

E-Ratic volume 2: Recharged by Kaare Andrews (writer/artist), Brian Reber (colorist), and Sal Cipriano (letterer). $9.99, 85 pgs, AWA Studios.

Andrews continues to be a frustrating creator, but that’s ok because at least his comics are pretty entertaining while he’s being frustrating. Take E-Ratic, his Spider-Man analog. It’s a good hook – Oliver can only access his powers for ten minutes a day, so he has to be careful about using them, and after the events of the first volume, he doesn’t even want to do that. Using powers and then having a “refractory period” before you can superhero it up again; suppressing your powers because you’re scared of them; shooting energy all over the place when you do use your powers … if Spider-Man can be seen as a metaphor for sex, Andrews ratchets that up to 11 with Oliver, which is fine if a bit obvious. Then, of course, there’s the weird “void” that is the enemy of life, it seems, and there’s an interdimensional princess who allies herself with Oliver to fight the Void, which causes Oliver’s girlfriend to be jealous because said princess is a hottie. Finally, there’s the idea of conformity as a means of control and of “keeping people safe,” which just means, well, controlling them. You know the drill! All of this is standard stuff, and Andrews turns it into a decent superhero romp. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. He makes Oliver’s girlfriend, Kristen, a bit more conniving than you’d want from a hero’s girlfriend, but she’s just a normal teenager, really, so her duplicitous and often inconsistent behavior tracks, unfortunately (teenage girls are often not very nice). It’s all fine. But that’s the problem – Andrews really isn’t breaking new ground, nor is he trying to. Yes, superhero romps can be fun, but they’re also very familiar, and it’s frustrating when writers don’t really try to do anything interesting with them. Andrews gives us stereotypes, and really, only with Kristen does he try to do anything to break that stereotype, and that’s only because Kristen doesn’t conform to what we think of when we think of girlfriends in superhero comics but she does conform with how teenage girls act a lot of the time. The “conform or die” part of the story is rushed and undercooked, as we speed from “Hey, the kids are in danger, let’s see if there are things we can do to safeguard them” – which might be something worth exploring – to “force everyone to conform or we’ll kill them,” which is a bit boring. Andrews does a nice job with the basics, but that’s all he does, unfortunately.

Similarly, there’s a bit missing from the art, too. Now, the art is wonderful on the whole – Andrews knows very much what he’s doing in the artwork, and he can draw a superhero slugfest with the best of them. His designs are interesting, he knows when to expand the panels to allow the art to really shine, and he has that nice fluid style that suits superhero comics so well. He does facial expressions very well, and in a superhero comic, where everyone wears their emotions on their sleeves, that’s very helpful. He and Reber make the book bright and poppy, and even when things get a bit dark in the last issue, the colors stay vibrant so things don’t get murky. However … Andrews is, almost shockingly, 55 years old, and I don’t know if he has kids, but he doesn’t draw teenagers very well. They look perfectly fine, true, but that’s part of the problem … they just look like short adults. Obviously, comic book artists have been sexualizing people for decades, so I expect that, but except for Oliver, who looks like a younger child, all the people look like adults, especially the girls. It’s tough, because as an artist, you probably don’t want to be researching teen girls all that much, but they’re not hard to find, and they always have seemed to me – teens in general, but the girls in particular – kind of like baby giraffes, all necks and legs, awkwardly walking around like they just woke up. Some of the boys – those who have grown – are like gorillas, almost, unsure of their strength and not terribly graceful. Every teen in E-Ratic – and it’s certainly not just Andrews who does this – is very proportional and fully confident in their movements. Even the one stereotypical nerd is that way. I know that the psychology of teenagers doesn’t really come into the book at all, nor does it in most comics, but it’s always weird to me to see these slightly smaller adults wandering around in high school. It bugs me a bit and makes the book – which really is about teens figuring things out in a world where adults have let them down – a bit less powerful in that regard. Still, it’s a very nice-looking comic, because Andrews is a very good artist.

If you miss old-fashioned superhero comics and aren’t finding them at Marvel or DC, there are other places to look, you know! Andrews is having fun with his character, and there’s no reason why he can’t keep on having fun!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s gonna leave a mark

It’s Only Teenage Wasteland #1-4 by Curt Pires (writer), Jacoby Salcedo (artist), Mark Dale (colorist), and Micah Myers (letterer). $15.96, 108 pgs, Dark Horse.

Pires is an interesting writer with some interesting ideas, and he usually does a pretty good job, although I haven’t completely loved anything he’s done – some crucial thing always seems to be missing, something that keeps him from becoming a truly great writer. This comic is like his others, pretty good – he takes a bunch of teens and sends them to a post-apocalyptic future where they have to fight against Mad Max refugees (maybe they wandered in from Fawkes’s comic) and figure out what the heck is going on. Pires does a good job with the characters, making them decent teens and giving them all sorts of teen problems that they need to work out even though people are trying to kill them. Salcedo has a slightly more cartoony Steve Lieber vibe going on with his art, and it’s quite good. It’s a perfectly good adventure story.

However … it doesn’t end! This is not actually a four-issue mini-series, it’s the first arc of a longer story, and that really bugs me. It’s not that I wouldn’t have bought it had I known, but I might have thought twice about it, or at least thought about waiting for a trade, especially if Dark Horse is going to release a nice 8- or 12-issue hardcover (I have no idea how many arcs Pires has planned). I get annoyed by things like this, because it’s false advertising and, frankly, it makes me less likely to read the next arc or try something else by Dark Horse, because I don’t trust them. Second, this isn’t the first time Pires has done something like this, although usually he at least ends the story and simply leaves the possibility of more – in this case, you really can’t enjoy this arc unless you get the whole story, because this is just the prologue. Moreover, I don’t exactly trust Pires to follow up. As I noted, he’s done this before – less obnoxiously, but still – and he hasn’t followed up, so while this is more open-ended, I don’t know if we’ll ever see the conclusion to this story. You know what that does!

So. This is annoying. It’s a decent enough tale, but I don’t know when another arc is coming or if it’s coming. I don’t mind, actually, if Pires and Dark Horse want to do a new #1 – as we sadly know, #1 issues sell, so even though in the olden days the next issue would have been #5 and nobody would have cared, these days it’s going to be a whole ‘nother mini-series, and that’s fine. Just make sure you let us know before we dive into this sucker. It’s Only … Courteous.


One totally Airwolf panel:

Ya gotta get the cash in hand first, my dudes!

Moon Knight: Black, White & Blood Treasury Edition. $29.99, 120 pgs, Marvel.

I dig these Treasury Editions that Marvel puts out, so when I’m particularly interested in something or I think the art is just going to pop in the larger format, I will pony up the extra ducats for them. I haven’t gotten all of the “Black, White & Blood” editions (and the lack of an Oxford comma bugs me a lot more than you might think … although maybe not, given the nerdy nature of our readership), but when I do, I get ’em in Treasury Editions, because the artists tend to be good and go all out thanks to the format. So let’s check this sucker out!

“Anubis Rex” is by Jonathan Hickman and Chris Bachalo. It’s what you’d might expect from Hickman and Bachalo – cool, occasionally impenetrable art and a weird story set in a weird future with Moon Knight in space. Hickman’s obsession with space is odd, and a street-level hero like Moon Knight doesn’t really work there, but the story is fine. It’s mildly humorous, which is always nice with such a grim character like Moon Knight (a decent percentage of the stories are mildly humorous in this volume, which is keen).

“So White. Yet, So Dark” is by Murewa Ayodele and Dotun Akande, two names I’m unfamiliar with. Spider-Man wants a favor from Moon Knight, but Moon Knight will only grant it if Spidey helps him out … actually, that’s the deal Spidey strikes, with no input from MK. It’s a silly story mainly because of the presence of Spider-Man, who is his usual light-hearted self, and the stinger at the end is fun. It’s the second story to deal with supernatural Egyptian stuff, which is the least interesting aspect of Moon Knight’s convoluted backstory but which is apparently a thing now. Nice, clean art, although a bit sterile.

“The End” by Marc Guggenheim and Jorge Fornés is a nicely drawn story about Moon Knight getting a witness to the courthouse to testify against a mob boss who is trying to kill her. It’s perfectly fine (although it ends with Moon Knight apparently dead, which is not the last time his fate at the end of a story seems to be contrary to the nature of an ongoing corporate IP), but it’s notable because Guggenheim tells the story backward because Kierkegaard told him to, I guess. So the final panel of the story is the first one we see, and if you want to read it from the beginning, you need to flip to the end and read up the pages and right to left to get it. It’s so very clever.

“The Empty Tomb” by Benjamin Percy and Vanessa Del Rey is another story that ends with our hero in a spot from which it seems impossible to recover (yes, I know these stories are “out of continuity” – I’m just pointing it out), as Moon Knight seeks a way to stop being Khonshu’s avatar, with predictably dire results. It’s pretty good, and Del Rey’s art is terrific.

“A Hard Day’s Knight” by David Pepose, Leonardo Romero, and Chris Sotomayor is about the different personalities of Moon Knight and how they pick up various injuries during their adventures. It’s slight but fun, and I love how the waitress doesn’t bat an eye when a masked dude in a white suit bleeding from different wounds comes in and immediately begins talking to people who aren’t there. She’s seen it all, man!

“Blood Red Glider” by “Patch” Zircher is about Moon Knight getting revenge on a crazy dude from his mercenary days into which Zircher sneaks some commentary about economic imperialism. It looks great, unsurprisingly, and I guess I have to respect Zircher’s desire to be called “Patch” even though I really want to just call him Patrick. No deadnaming around here, people!

“Wrong Turn” by Erica Schultz and David Lopez sees some bank robbers get in a cab … driven by Jake Lockley. That does not go well for them. It’s a fun story.

“No Empty Sky” by Jim Zub and Djibril Morissette-Phan has Moon Knight taking on a cult that has kidnapped a young girl. Ah, but why did they? – that’s the puzzle. It’s a decent story with nice art, and is the fourth story that deals with mystical Egyptian shit. Not that I’m keeping count or anything.

“Astronauts” by Ann Nocenti, Stefano Raffaele, and Chris Sotomayor is about, well, Moon Knight as an astronaut. It’s a very weird story about a billionaire who wants to … strip-mine the moon for resources? Which is weird, but doesn’t seem technically illegal, yet Moon Knight has to stop him? I’m not sure why Moon Knight has to stop him except for the lunar-ness of his schtick, but he stops him good. Raffaele’s art is cool.

“Good Morning” by Christopher Cantwell and Alex Lins is a depressing story about what Moon Knight dreams about. Man, it sucks. It’s a gripping story with really nice art – Lins uses a fairly rigid grid pattern, breaking it in cool ways but sticking to it for the most part. It’s a neat way to visually tell the story.

“The Scent of Blood” by Nadia Shammas, Dante Bastianoni, and Chris Sotomayor is about a different Egyptian god taking over as Moon Knight’s patron, and our hero not taking kindly to that. This is the second story in this issue with weird Egyptian stuff, bringing our total up to six.

“Born to Be” by Paul Azaceta features … oh dear, another Egyptian deity trying to horn in on Khonshu’s bailiwick, and our hero is having none of it. Azaceta’s rough, blocky art works nicely in this conceit – the black/white/redness of it all – and for the hero. But it is another story about Egyptian mystical shit, so there it is.

That’s 7 of 12 stories with a mystical Egyptian slant, which feels like too many. Whatever. The art is cool, the format is cool, and the stories are pretty good. That’s a keen combo!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye!

Nottingham volume 2: A King’s Ransom by David Hazan (writer), Shane Connery Volk (artist), Luca Romano (colorist), Justin Birch (letterer), and Brian Hawkins (editor). $17.99, 112 pgs, Mad Cave Studios.

I enjoyed the first volume of this series, and now the second volume is here, and it’s also quite good. I mean, the “historical” part of the “historical fiction” of this book is … sketchy, to say the least, but Hazan does some things that are actually quite good with regard to the history, so the stuff he doesn’t care about I guess we’ll have to give him a pass on. As we know, King Richard is away on crusade, but at the beginning of the book we find out he’s been taken captive by Henry VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. This actually happened, as you all know, and it forms the crux of the arc, as our friendly neighborhood Sheriff, Everard Blackthorne, is tasked by Prince John to take the ransom to Germany, even though John and his ally, Philip II of France, have no intention of allowing Blackthorne to get anywhere near the imprisoned king. Robin Hood overhears the prince and decides to tell Blackthorne, offering to team up with the sheriff to make sure the ransom gets through. It’s an old-school classic team-up between enemies who … become friends?

Well, of course not, but it’s still intriguing. There’s a lot wrong with the history in the book, but the set-up works. (Richard was not captured by Henry, just turned over to him; he was not held in Rome, but in Germany; Henry held onto Richard until 1194 and released him willingly, instead of the king being rescued by the sheriff and Robin Hood; there’s no way Philip II would just show up in London to conspire with John; Eleanor of Aquitaine would almost certainly never refer to herself as “Eleanor of Aquitaine”; it’s very unlikely that kings would wear their crowns all the time, especially so cock-eyed like John does – you get the gist!) As the two men and their entourages travel across France toward Italy, they’re beset by stowaways (a Muslim woman who claims she married a Templar but who we know is an assassin) and traitors and soldiers whittling down their numbers. In Rome they manage to rescue Richard, and then things get interesting. As I noted, Hazan does some things that work really well with the history, and after Richard gets out, we see a bit of that … but I don’t want to spoil it, so you’ll just have to believe me. Suffice it to say that Hazan understands the way some people were treated in those days, and he really leans into it, and the result is brutal but it feels accurate (sadly). Meanwhile, back in Nottingham, things aren’t going well, as John can’t control the Merry Men and they begin to have success … but it’s not the happy occasion you might expect. Here, too, Hazan is a bit anachronistic with how a rebellion against the crown might work, but it’s still quite gripping. If you think there’s no way any of this can be resolved in five issues … well, you’re right – this is “to be continued,” but unlike It’s Only Teenage Wasteland, it didn’t bug me because I fully expected it, given that this is clearly an ongoing. See how easy it would have been to placate me, Dark Horse and Curt Pires?!?!?

Volk continues to be a good artist for this series, as his rough, fairly ugly art (in the best way!) suits the brutal circumstances in which the characters live. He has a bit of a Sam Kieth vibe going on, in that the faces are a bit cartoonish and even rubbery, but he also has a bit of a Jim Calafiore vibe going on, which lends a bit of harsh angularity to the artwork. His thick inking lines makes everyone look beaten up and beaten down, even Marian and Aya, whose features are a bit more delicate than the men’s. His fight scenes are harsh and often weirdly choreographed, which doesn’t really impede understanding but does make the fighting look less balletic and more butchery than we see in your regular superhero comic. His settings are done well – I don’t know if the palace of Westminster looks like he draws it, but it looks medieval, and he does good work with the villages of England and Rome and the dark forests in between. Some things might be anachronistic – Marian’s clothing once she starts being more active in the rebellion, and I doubt if John sat around on the throne wearing greaves, but whatever. The art is very keen, and it works very well with the story.

Hazan is doing a good job at least giving us a bit of the feel for life in the 1190s, even if some of it is wildly wrong. He seems to have a lot of things that he could do going forward, so I’m interested to see how much more he has planned and if he’ll be able to finish at his own pace. I’m looking forward to it!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Probably not the smartest thing to do

Pandora Perfect by Roger Langridge (writer), Brett Parsons (artist), and Simon Bowland (letterer). $16.99, 63 pgs, Rebellion/2000AD.

Langridge is a good writer, and Parsons is a good artist, so this is good! The End.

I mean, there’s a bit more to it, I suppose. It’s a bit overpriced for the amount of comics you get, but they are very fun comics, so there’s that. Pandora – who is a “nefarious hi-tech Mary Poppins” (as the cover blurb tells us) in really only the first story – is a thief whose best buddy is an android, Gort, with a lot of personality. She gets into trouble, and gets out of trouble – there’s not a lot of mystery in these stories. They’re simply excuses for Langridge to have some fun and Parsons to draw all sorts of wacky stuff. So, in order, we get:

… An 8-page story in which Pandora pretends to be a nanny so that she can steal a “universal key” to get her ankle bracelet off – she’s just escaped from jail and doesn’t want it to explode, which it does 24 hours after it leaves the prison …

… A 10-page story in which Pandora tries to steal a stuffed bird which is worth a lot of money because it’s so endangered, but she doesn’t realize the bird isn’t exactly what it seems and its owner is not quite as befuddled as she originally thinks …

… The collection’s epic, a 36-page story in which Pandora hooks up with an old thief who’s gone legit making delicious sausages but who still has the urge to steal, so they concoct a plan to get a giant diamond that backfires when the dude betrays Pandora and steals Gort. Everything gets sorted, and we learn why the sausages are so very, very delicious, and it’s not pleasant! And finally …

… A 9-page story in which Pandora is hired to steal some pills. A giant chicken is involved.

None of the stories are all that consequential, but they are very enjoyable, and it’s always impressive to see how some writers can cram so much into such little space while others take their damned time (Bendis or Johns would have turned the giant chicken story into a 6-issue epic!!!!). Langridge wastes no time, gets to the point, and trusts Parsons to add some nice visual humor that complements the writing. Comics can be fun, kids! Who knew?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, that’s not very neighborly …

Phantasmagoria #1-5 by El Torres (writer/letterer), Joe Bacardo (artist), and Andrea Lorenzo Molinari (editor). $24.95, 123 pgs, Black Caravan/Scout Comics.

I wrote about the first issue of this back in November, as it came out a few years ago but Torres reworked it a bit for a new artist. Now it’s complete, so I can write about the entire thing! Huzzah!

Torres is one of the best horror comics writers of the 21st century, and that assessment won’t change with this, as it’s an interesting thriller with a nice horror undertone. As I noted in my earlier post, a Professor Hawke discovers a possessed young lady in 1890s London and exorcises her, but the spirit inside her escapes. He tries to get answers from an inmate at Bedlam Hospital, a man he seems to know fairly well. The man escapes at the end of issue #1, seemingly setting up a confrontation between the two of them for the fate of humanity or something. High stakes, in other words.

Well, there is that, but Hawke and the inmate – who calls himself Edwin Drood (although in issues #2-5 it’s misspelled “Drodd”) – share a long history, one that stretches back to ancient Egypt. Drood/Drodd seems to be trying to help the spirit do whatever it is the spirit wants to do (I don’t want to spoil it), but it’s also clear he’s not quite as evil as we initially think he is. Torres is very good at giving us interesting characters, and his plot is a bit convoluted but not ridiculous, and it leads inexorably to the Houses of Parliament and horrible choices that need to be made. Because Torres is able to create these interesting characters, the dire straits he places them in has more of an impact, which is nice. He does a good job showing the way Hawke helps people, which makes them want to help him in return, and it highlights the different methods he uses to get the job done, as opposed to Drodd, who is more accustomed to brute force. What’s fascinating about the story is that Torres doesn’t necessarily choose one over the other – Drodd, as I mentioned, is somewhat nasty, but he’s not quite as evil as he seems when we first meet him, and his methods become more important as the book moves along. As usual, the plot isn’t anything too special – plots are hard, man! – but Torres does a really nice job moving through it, showing us how people react to extreme situations, and why one way might work in one situation but another way might be more effective in a different situation. It’s always interesting to see how writers work out the way through the plot, and Torres does a very nice job here.

Bacardo does a very nice job, too. In the original publication of this story, there were different artists on the first and second issues, so Bacardo gives Torres good visual consistency, which is always helpful. More than that, Bacardo just does a good job. He has a rough line that fits the horror aspect of the book – his scenes of carnage just look disturbing, which is how they’re supposed to look – and also the time period, as 19th-century London looks a bit grungy and beat up. He uses what appear to be Photoshop overlays in some places, which are pretty well integrated into the pencil art but also look a bit supernatural, which is the point. His otherworldly intruder is fantastically horrific, too, which is nice. The black and white helps the mood, of course, but Bacardo does really good work with gray shading throughout, making the book a bit more ambiguous and subtle as we move through it. It’s really nice-looking art, and it’s cool that Torres was able to find such a good collaborator to finally bring the entire story to print.

As I noted above, Torres is a terrific horror writer, and this is another very good one from him. I always look forward to his stuff, and I hope he gets a chance to get more of it out in the world!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, that’s just not cricket

Quests Aside by Brian Schirmer (writer), Elena Gogou (artist), Rebecca Nalty (colorist), and Andworld Design (letterer). $17.99, 114 pgs, Vault Comics.

Schirmer is a good dude, and he writes pretty good comics, so it would be nice if one of them sold well, because it doesn’t appear that they do. Oh well – I’ll keep buying them! He has a fun sense of humor in his stories, and they’re generally pretty lightweight but with just enough emotional heft to them that you care about the characters even if they’re somewhat goofy. For instance, in this story we get an undead skeleton who happens to be a fabulous cook. Goofy, sure, but Schirmer makes him a three-dimensional character, so his complaints about his job are relatable and when his girlfriend dumps him, we feel for him (he takes it very well, though, and she’s not really being mean, so it’s not really a horrible situation, just a bit sad). So generally with Schirmer, we get an interesting story that has some silly elements but has a good emotional core to it. That’s not a bad recipe at all.

In this story, we get a former adventurer named Barrow who took his adventuring loot and opened a bar – he’s the Sam Malone of this medieval world. He employs the skeleton, a wannabe mage whose mentor died so he never got to “graduate,” a mysterious woman with a violent past, and the skeleton’s girlfriend, who’s a witch. These are all damaged people without families, so of course, Barrow and the bar become their family, and Schirmer does a nice job showing this without making it too obvious (until the end, when it needs to pay off a bit). Barrow has problems with his supplier, who’s trying to raise prices, and a rival wants to buy the bar, and then the king shows up and tells him some bad news. The king, it turns out, is one of his former adventurers, so Barrow thinks he can appeal to his friendship, but it doesn’t appear that’s going to happen. I don’t want to give anything away, because Schirmer has fun subverting some of the tropes of this kind of fantasy story, and the modern touches he puts in it are fun (there’s a troubadour who hangs out at the tavern playing a lute, but the king’s troubadour – this dude’s rival – plays a triple-necked electric guitar because he’s so much more awesome than the local guy). Stuff like that (that’s not the only example) add to the goofiness but also make this less like a stolid medieval epic and more like a “hang-out” story – the bar (which is called Quests Aside, as it’s where you lay your troubles down) is a friendly and welcoming place, and a lot of the book deals with the way the people interact with each other, which makes the final issue, where things come to a head, work better because we get a good sense of what these people are fighting for. Barrow himself is a good character, because he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders without realizing that he might not have to, and the lure of adventuring – when, some might say, his life had more meaning – is always there. There are some nice twists in the book, but nothing too drastic and nothing that comes out of left field. It’s just a well-written story about interesting people.

Gogou’s art is solid if unspectacular. Some of their page designs are a bit wonky, but nothing too weird – in a couple of places, it seems like they’re trying to fit too much on a page, which might just be because Schirmer wants to get so much on the page. However, the book isn’t action-packed, so Gogou needs to work with the characters more, and it’s here that they do a good job. Their work on facial expressions in a book that deals with the way people interact with each other is quite good, as we get what the characters are thinking and feeling without Schirmer having to spell it out for us, and their designs of the many creatures who inhabit the world is well done. It’s a busy book, as I noted, and while some of the time it’s a bit much, when Gogou doesn’t feel the need to come up with odd page layouts and can just concentrate on filling each panel with interesting details, the book comes alive nicely. This feels like a tavern you’d want to hang out in, and that’s crucial to a story like this.

Schirmer hasn’t written too many comics (unless I’ve missed them, which is certainly possible), but they’ve been good reads, as is this one. Give it a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

That’s a weird curse

Revolvers by John Zuur Platten (writer), Christian Dibari (artist), Simon Gough (colorist), Troy Peteri (letterer), Matt Hawkins (editor), and Elena Salcedo (editor). $16.99, 111 pgs, Image/Top Cow.

On the credits page, Platten is listed as someone who has “shipped over 80 titles,” which is a weird way to put it. It also says he has written for various “franchises” – meaning movies – and was the “lead creative” at the place that created Pokémon GO. Plus, his book on game writing is used “in over 1000 universities around the globe,” which is nice for him. It does say he’s written “feature films, television, and graphic novels,” but it doesn’t actually list any of them. My point is that this reads a bit like someone’s first comic, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, just that it’s a bit over-heated, there are weird caption boxes where they don’t necessarily need to be, and there are some places where, perhaps, there should be more writing but there isn’t. It doesn’t flow very well, is my point, and it feels like someone working out the lumps in their writing. It’s not a bad idea – a Detroit cop struggling against corruption tries to take down a big-time drug dealer/human trafficker, but when the bust goes sour, our hero – Hampton Wales – comes home to find his wife dead, so he commits suicide. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for the plot!), he keeps coming back to quasi-life, as he “revolves” – his creepy guide implies that people who die violently can’t move on until they get some kind of closure with how they left their life, saying he’s “attached” to his killer … although he committed suicide, so that’s a bit dicey. For Wales, closure means solving the mystery of his wife’s death. He also has to “kill” the other revolvers, because they’re all trying to kill him for … reasons. As everyone in this book seems to be corrupt and not above some murder, he comes across a lot of risen corpses connected to cops he knows, and they aren’t happy. Wales is told that the “revolvers” can’t hurt the living, but that doesn’t seem to be a hard-and-fast rule, which is a bit annoying. Anyway, Wales eventually figures out a way to “move on,” but he does want to solve the mystery first, so he gets on that.

As I noted, it’s not a bad hook. It could be a psychological kind of thriller, as Wales and the dead people around him try to come to grips with their deaths and the fact that so many people who don’t deserve to live are, actually, still living, but Platten doesn’t really go that route. He wants a lot of gory mayhem, and he delivers, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, although it obscures some of the sillier things about the plot. Wales isn’t corrupt, but he does cheat on his wife, who does want him to take bribes because she wants a better standard of living. So why does he stay with her when she doesn’t care about corruption and he doesn’t care about his marriage vows? We don’t get a lot about her, because she’s dead at the beginning of the book, but she does “revolve,” so we do get her a bit, but not enough to enlighten us about their relationship. Wales is a slightly less horrible person than those around him, so going after the corrupt cops works, but again, the “rules” of being a “revolver” don’t make much sense. Platten doesn’t do too much with the standard “corrupt cops” narrative, so it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. It’s a fairly entertaining book, sure, but also fairly forgettable.

Dibari is another name I’m unfamiliar with, although it looks as if he’s done at least some comics over the past 20 years as well as animation work. The art is solid – it’s a bit blocky and occasionally the storytelling breaks down a bit, but Dibari has a rough, Denys Cowan-type vibe going on, and it works in a gritty noir like this. His weird afterlife and bizarre creatures are the best part of the book, and he gets to dispatch a lot of weird things as Wales shoots his way through the plot, and he has some fun with it. He blends the insane supernatural stuff with the mundane dourness of Detroit quite well, too, which is nice. Like the story, the art isn’t great, but it’s pretty good.

Like a lot of comics by people who don’t necessarily toil in the comics salt mines all the time, this reads a bit like a movie pitch. It would probably be a pretty decent one, too, if that’s what Platten has in mind. As a comic … it’s fine. Nothing special, but not terrible. If you’re in the mood for some weird noir, it’s worth a read.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

All the cool demons use handguns!

Seven Sons … volume 1? by Robert Windom (writer), Kelvin Mao (writer), Jae Lee (artist), June Chung (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer), and Crank! (letterer). $19.99, 199 pgs, Image.

That’s a nice cover, but it’s misleading. It implies that the Devil plays a part in this book, when in fact, he does not. False Advertising, I tells ya!

Anyway, this is Jae Lee’s big return to interior work, which is the reason I got it, as I’ve been a fan of Lee’s since those long-ago Namor days. I assume that precise, delicate painted style he uses on covers takes too long, because this is a much rougher, pencil-and-ink style of art than we’ve seen from Lee in a long time. It’s still very good, and it still has the distinctive Lee touches, such as rounded heads, thin eyes, and high foreheads, but the inks are heavier and thicker than usual, which adds a bit of heft to the work. Lee gives us a gritty, messy Las Vegas that retains its haunting beauty thanks to his ability to make his work look a bit ethereal (even with the heavier inks) but is also more … worldly, I guess, than his usual work. Lee remains an excellent storyteller – some of the pages have very weird paneling on them, with jagged, irregular panels spread across them, but Lee is in complete control of how our eyes flow over the page, so the style accentuates the story instead of hindering it. He and Chung blend some special effects into the art, but not too much, so it’s pretty seamless. Chung, who’s his usual colorist (as far as I recall), does a good job with muted colors that are nevertheless not murky, so the art remains clear and “realistic,” so when Chung uses some brighter tones, they pop a bit. Lee and Chung use chunk blacks nicely, as well, giving the book a somewhat creepy and tense feel to it – it’s supposedly about light, but the darkness is closing in, that sort of thing – and it makes the art work a bit better.

The story, meanwhile … is fine. Windom and Mao both work in movies, so this is probably a film pitch, but what the hell, right? It’s not a bad plot – a dude prophesied that Jesus would come again, and in 1977, seven children are born to seven virgins on seven different continents (even Antarctica?), and the dude becomes a celebrity and, eventually, the kids’ manager. In 1998, he’s about the reveal which one is the true Son of God, which has been made easier by a religious movement led by what appears to be a deranged Muslim having killed many of the other sons over the years. Of course, the Muslim dude has his reasons (Windom and Mao aren’t stupid enough to stereotypically insult an entire religion like they appear to be doing), and of course, there’s a big conspiracy afoot, and of course, the manager dude isn’t what he appears to be (but he’s not Satan!), and there’s a big fight for FREEDOM! in the book, but it moves along a nice clip, and Windom and Mao do some nice things with the manner in which they tell the story to distract a bit from its mediocrity. They jump back and forth in time pretty well, so the book becomes a nice puzzle instead of a straightforward story, and they do a pretty good job with the main character as he moves from zealot to skeptic. The problems with the story are many, but they might not bug you, so there it is. The idea of this new version of Christianity taking over isn’t a bad one, but Islam is pretty entrenched, and the Muslim dude caring about Christianity seems far-fetched, especially when it seems like other Christian sects would be more upset about it (Mormonism is mentioned as being pretty much dead because of this, so perhaps Mormon “terrorists”?). The actual reasoning behind what’s going on is fine, too, but Windom and Mao never really get into it, until the very end, when they leave open a possibility for a sequel, because of fucking course they do (Windom’s writing credits on IMDb are a movie … and its sequel). It’s a mildly entertaining story that, frankly, doesn’t really deserve the artwork they get.

I don’t mean to sound like I hated this, because it’s fine. It’s definitely worth it if you like Jae Lee, and the story isn’t terrible, just a bit familiar, as we can see pretty much every beat coming even if it’s somewhat skillfully set up. Oh well. Maybe Lee will draw something cooler next time!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Well, that can’t be good
Spoiled rock stars are always funny!

Shadow Service volume 3: Death to Spies by Cavan Scott (writer), Corin Howell (artist), Triona Farrell (colorist), and Andworld Design (letterer). $17.99, 110 pgs, Vault Comics.

I liked this volume of Shadow Service more than volume 2, which felt a bit … unfocused, I guess. It was okay, but it seems like Scott got some mojo back with this one, and all was well … until I reached the end, and there’s a cliffhanger. That’s fine, as this is an ongoing, and each volume has kind of led into the next, but this feels different, as it’s not like the story got resolved and then we got a cliffhanger that’s a teaser for an unrelated story. No, this story kind of ends in the middle, which things seemingly winding down but then, bam! they get ramped back up again. I don’t have too much of a problem with it, it’s just frustrating when you read an arc of a series and it doesn’t wrap up in one arc, especially because that’s how series tend to be organized these days. Even ongoings aren’t quite as free-flowing as the old days at Marvel in the 1980s, when you would just zip from one plot point to the next, and then back to the first, and then a third, and the writer would keep all the balls in the air for a while. If that’s what Scott wants to do, have at it, but so far, it feels like he’s wanted to do five-issue arcs with a bit of the character development tying everything together. No longer, said he! Now it’s TEN-issue arcs, damn it!

Yes, I’m ranting. So be it. It’s also because I still worry that series from publishers that aren’t DC or Marvel are just going to disappear, and that’s annoying. Still, it appears this series is safe for at least another arc, so that’s that. As you might not know, Shadow Service is about spies (British spies specifically, but agencies like it exist everywhere) fighting supernatural things, a conceit which is still very keen and still has a lot of storytelling potential. Our hero, Gina, who joined the service in the first arc, is still trying to figure out what happened to her birth mother, and she learns the nasty truth in this arc, but the main plot involves various creatures from folklore killing agents. The folklore creatures are specific to the agent’s country, so Howell gets to draw some fun stuff in this volume. I don’t want to give too much away, but people are killed, there’s a Kooky Konspiracy behind it all (of course there is), and things take a dramatic turn at the end. It’s all pretty exciting.

Howell’s art seems to get stronger every volume, which is nice. She does very good action sequences, so two dragons fighting in London really pops off the page, as she uses motion lines well and short brush strokes to “blur” the characters when they’re moving, which speeds the art up a bit. Her creature designs are superb – one of the Big Bads is horrific, as it’s meant to be, while some of her monsters are nicely updated so they’re still recognizable as what they are but they feel a bit more modern. The violence in the book is excellently done – it’s visceral and shocking, which hits harder, and it’s occasionally unexpected, and Howell makes it more disturbing because of its unexpectedness. She uses slightly bigger eyes to express the characters’ emotions, which works – the horror they endure is reflected well in the eyes. Howell has been a good artist for a while, but … I don’t know, it feels like this is a step up in her game a bit.

The way this ends, it feels like the next arc could be an apocalyptic conclusion. I hope not, because, as I noted, there’s still a lot of potential for this idea, but we shall see. I am looking forward to it, though!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Things are not looking good

Spider-Punk: Battle of the Banned by Cody Ziglar (writer), Justin Mason (artist), Jim Charalampidis (colorist), Travis Lanham (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $15.99, 99 pgs, Marvel.

I didn’t pre-order this, but my store had a copy, and I took a look at it and was blown away by Mason’s art, which is terrific. A bit angular but still fluid, with that slightly cartoony vibe that often helps big-time superhero slugfests go down a bit easier. His design work is excellent – yes, Spider-Man in high-top sneakers and Kamala Khan wearing a plaid shirt wrapped around her waist is dumb, but Mason makes it work somehow, which is nice. He does some keen work with the page layouts – a few times he turns the page on the side to get more lateral movement, and he uses double-page spreads to good effect throughout the book. His action scenes are kinetic and chaotic but laid out very well, so the fights are very nicely choreographed. He makes good use of blacks and some keen stippling effects to roughen up the art, and occasionally he drops holding lines and lets Charalampidis use paints to fill in the blanks. The book is bright and brash, too, because Charalampidis does such a good job. The art fits the “anarchic” nature of the story, and it’s very fun to look at.

Unfortunately, it’s in the service of a pretty dumb story. On one level, it’s fine – a group of superheroes band together to fight a mean ol’ supervillain and his toadies and win against all odds. Nothing terribly spectacular here. In fact, it’s a Spider-Man versus Green Goblin/Venom story, as in Hobie Brown’s universe, Norman Osborn bonded with Venom and then got killed by Spider-Punk, but in this story, he’s back in a kind of Arnim Zola-type armor. Hobie has his buddies – Captain Anarchy (yep), Riri Williams, Kamala Khan, Daredevil, the Hulk – and Norman has his minions – Taskmaster, Flash Thompson Venom, Kraven, some fake Iron Man dude – and they fight. You know the drill! It looks good, and Ziglar keeps it relatively simple.

However … it’s the details, innit, and boy howdy, are the details dumb. First of all, using corporate characters based on characters whose creators never got the credit (or, more importantly, financial compensation) they deserve to tell a “Anarchy in the U.S.” story is brutally ironic, and I have to think Ziglar knows it and doesn’t care. This is also perhaps the most politically correct comic in existence, and that’s saying something. I’m all for political correctness – in my world, it’s called “not being a dick” – and as you should know by now, I’m all for more diversity in comics, both on the creative side and on the output side. But man, Ziglar really runs with it. The goofiness of every single good person in this comic being something other than a straight white man and every single evil person in this book being a straight white man is dumb, but it’s not a big deal. Norman Osborn being a not-thinly-veiled analog for Donald Trump is dumb, simply because it’s another one of these obvious things that I can’t decide is obvious because Ziglar thinks his readers are stupid (which they may well be!) or because he’s not a very good writer (which he may well be!). It’s just that the “Power to the People” thing is so dull because even as Ziglar acknowledges that nobody can just replace the existing power structure with a new, similar one, he’s all “Tear it Down!” without any “Build it Up!” to go with it. Sure, Daredevil is delivering food to the needy in Philadelphia, but so what? I get that building a society doesn’t make for good superhero stories, but as writers have started recognizing that superheroes often defend the status quo and they don’t want to write about that, they enjoy writing about throwing down the powerful but ignoring the vacuum that creates. Maybe Marvel will let Ziglar write that story eventually. I doubt it, but maybe. There’s also the fact that Marvel allows Ziglar to write about superheroes tearing things down … in an alternate universe. Can’t have that in the good ol’ 616, can we? And finally, I get that the character are teens/young adults, but they talk way too much in Instagram captions, proclaiming their progressive, diversity bonafides in loud-‘n’-proud tones. It’s terrible dialogue, as Ziglar could easily show how diverse and proud they are without making them sound like tools. Oh, and finally (yes, I know I already used “finally,” but it’s my prerogative to use it again!), I had to laugh that in a book as “anarchic” as this, we get … grawlix. Way to stick it to the man, Marvel – censor those bad words before a teenager sees it and asks their parent what it means while they’re in church or at a family dinner! Sigh. It’s just a dumb superhero punch-’em-up, and Ziglar desperately wants it to be more than that, but he simply cannot pull it off.

Oh well. It looks very nice, and it’s mildly entertaining. These writers know that simply showing two dudes making out in one panel goes a long way toward making the world a better place, right? You don’t need to jump up and down yelling “Look at me!” all the time!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Name three Gorilla Biscuits songs, ya poser!

Spy Superb #1-3 by Matt Kindt (writer/artist/letterer), Sharlene Kindt (colorist), and Daniel Chabon (editor). $23.97, 141 pgs, Dark Horse.

Kindt is much better when he’s writing for himself as artist (although he’s pretty good writing for others, too), so I was looking forward to Spy Superb, his latest espionage thriller, considering his very good track record in that genre (Super Spy, which he advertises at the end of this as a “prequel” to this, although I very much doubt he had this in mind when he did that book, considering it’s over 15 years old, is one of my favorite graphic novels). His hook is pretty good, too – a spy organization uses civilians for very specific tasks that they don’t know has anything to do with spycraft, so therefore there’s a “perfect” agent – Spy Superb – who can’t be compromised because he or she doesn’t know they’re a spy! The logistics of this are best left unexamined, as it would get ridiculous, but the point is – at the beginning of the book, the latest Spy Superb is found dead in the trunk of a car, and he had a phone on him with every recent Spy Superb and every Spy Superb candidate, so the Shadowy Government Organization™ needs to get it back. They activate the latest Spy Superb candidate, a dude named Jay Bartholomew III, who’s … unimpressive, to say the least. Kindt has a lot of fun with Jay – he’s perfect because he’s full of unearned confidence and swagger. He says he’s a genius writer, but he’s only written the first chapter of a sci-fi novel that he believes will be better than Proust. He’s rude to his only friend, he never thinks anything is his fault, he’s confident with the ladies who want nothing to do with him, and he thinks the world revolves around him. He picks up the phone, but the bad guys – the Chinese and the Russians, but also the same SGO™ that activated him, because he’s disposable – are sending assassins to kill him and get the phone. He ends up in Australia, where he meets one of the assassins, Lucky Leong, whom he believes is a damsel in distress. She decides to help him escape from the other master assassin out to get him, Roche Chambeaux (yep), but she also has orders to kill him. It’s a fun, wild ride. Jay is such a douchebag, but it’s hard to hate him, because he has a weird charisma (I have no doubt we’d all hate him in real life, but he works better in this context), and Kindt does a good job making the book less about the espionage part and more about Jay being forced to realize he’s kind of a douchebag. He doesn’t completely reform, but he works at it. The only unfortunate thing about the book is that it ends a bit weakly – there are only two ways it could end, I guess, and Kindt chooses one, and I was kind of hoping he’d come up with a third, interesting way. It’s not a bad ending, just a tad predictable.

Kindt’s art is his usual stuff – you either like it or you don’t, and I do, so that’s that. He’s gotten a little less oddball over the years with his panel designs, but he still breaks out some interesting visual cues every once in a while, and he always does interesting things with perspective. I don’t have much to say about his art, because it’s not too different from what he’s been doing for over 15 years. I like it. End of story.

Kindt is an excellent comics creator, and this is just another fascinating entry on his résumé. He has his own imprint at Dark Horse, so I hope we see a lot more from him coming up!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Jay speaks the truth!

The Variants by Gail Simone (writer), Phil Noto (artist), Cory Petit (letterer), and Jennifer Grünwald (collection editor). $15.99, 100 pgs, Marvel.

As you can see, this is a “Jessica Jones mystery,” and Simone is a good person to write something like this. She revolves the story around Jessica’s possession by the Purple Man, the tenth anniversary of which is approaching. Another woman who was possessed tells Jessica that she thinks Killgrave may have left a “time bomb” in her head that will make Jessica go nuts and start killing people, beginning with her family, so Jessica is desperate for help in stopping that. For some reason, multiversal “variants” of her are showing up, and after the requisite hero-vs.-hero slugfest, they decide to work together. We have a Captain America Jessica, a grouchy, cynical Jessica, and a young, still-Jewel Jessica. A bit later a Knightress Jessica shows up, and some others, but those are the main ones. Jessica has to figure out what’s going on and why these variants are showing up and what it has to do with Killgrave. Which she does. Of course she does!

This is a good, solid superhero story – nothing great, but entertaining throughout. It’s a bit annoying that Jessica needs help dealing with the Purple Man and it’s someone from way outside her wheelhouse, but other than that, it’s pretty good. Simone, like so many other good writers, can write serious stuff with just enough humor to keep it from being dreary and depressing, and while we know this will never devolve into utterly hopeless – there’s no way Jessica’s daughter is getting hurt here – the fact that we have so many variants means that there can be tragedy without consequences – these variants might never show up again, so their lives can suck hard and it doesn’t matter. It’s interesting seeing how Jessica’s life might have turned out, and it’s a bit tragic that Killgrave is such a factor in all of them. Simone is good at finding what makes characters tick, and she does a nice job with the subtle differences between Jessicas, as they’ve each had different experiences even though they’re the “same” person. The Big Bad isn’t Killgrave – that would be too easy – and Simone does a decent job making something very stupid in that person’s life such a factor in making them evil. I don’t want to give anything away, but it is kind of hilarious that Simone would do what she does, because the tipping point with the Big Bad is stupid but also very important to someone like them. So it’s well done.

I don’t see Noto’s art too often, as he seems to be working on books I’m not interested in, but I always like it, and it seems that, on this book at least, he’s using a bit of a heavier line and his coloring is a bit more subtle but also flatter than usual, which adds some heft to the work. His lines aren’t thick, of course, but they seem sturdier, and his shading is very well done. He does a good job with the subtle differences between Jessicas, as they react to things differently based on their histories, and he gives us a very neat-looking Killgrave and a ferocious Tigra (even though she’s only in the book for a few pages and all she does is talk to Jessica, she’s still ferocious). His figures remain a bit stiff, so his action scenes are never going to be the greatest, but it’s still good art.

This is a nice, short adventure with a cool character, and while it’s not too noir-ey, I guess that ship has sailed on Jessica these days. She’s still a good character, and Simone is a good writer to tackle her. And while I don’t love “variants,” in small doses, they’re all right.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Big man just wants some snacks!

Women of Marvel. $5.99, 44 pgs (if you count the text pages, which, why not?), Marvel.

I got this for the same reason I got the other anthologies above – I dig anthologies! Marvel doesn’t seem to do them quite as well as DC does, though, which is odd. I got this particular cover because Dazzler is on it (the Elsa Bloodstone was pretty cool, I must admit), but Alison, alas, does not appear in this comic. Booooo! Let’s take a look!

“What a Girl Wants” by Rebecca Roanhorse, Carola Borelli, and Ruth Redmond: This is the framing device, as She-Hulk stands up in court and presents three different “exhibits” about her clients, and it’s a bit lame. Her clients – who appear to be all female Marvel superheroes? – are being sued, but we never find out who the plaintiffs are. Their lawyer is a straw man idiot, and are we supposed to infer that the plaintiffs are mouth-breathing male superhero fans? I don’t know, but it’s just a dumb way to jump into each story. It could have been cut and maybe the stories could have been a few pages longer. Oh well.

“Sing Your Heart Out” by Victoria Ying, Jodi Nishijima, and Brittany Peer: Black Cat and Silk go to a karaoke place and get attacked by Mysterio. I mean, Mysterio clearly has anger issues, but he wasn’t exactly wrong. They get a private room, which sounds ickier than it is, but they still sing loud enough to disturb Mysterio in his own private room, and I get the sense if he had complained, they would have done this …

… and gone right back to singing too loudly and we would have been supposed to laugh and laugh at what a jerk Mysterio is. But the dude is just chillin’, singing karaoke along with … Eric Carmen, maybe? (the lyrics don’t match exactly) and the ladies are bothering him! Man, I get worked up about dumb things, don’t I? This story is fine.

“A Starling Rescue” by Melissa Flores, Stacey Lee, and Rachelle Rosenberg: America Chavez asks for Kate Bishop’s help in rescuing a “starling,” which is a person from her “magic secret island,” as Kate puts it. It turns out it’s actually Starling, the Vulture’s granddaughter, but she did need rescuing, so all’s well that ends well. It’s fine. Kind of bland, but fine.

“Energy Vampires” by Shawnee and Shawnelle Gibbs, Giulia Gualazzi, and Giada Marchisio: Kamala Khan visits New Orleans, but her ex-boyfriend Kamran sets a trap with her as bait, luring in Monica Rambeau so his boss can siphon off her energy. It goes about as well as you’d expect. This is probably the best story, as it’s just a nice superhero fight with nice art (all the art in the book is fine, but this is probably the best-looking one).

See, here’s the problem: the whole thing feels too short. I get that it’s less money than the DC one, but even these three stories feel too lightweight. I don’t mind the interviews about women working at Marvel, but the She-Hulk framing device takes up 8 pages of valuable real estate and contributes absolutely nothing. These three stories could have been just the tiniest bit more fleshed-out with a few extra pages each, and they wouldn’t feel like so many empty calories. I mean, hell, just let Roanhorse write a real 8-page She-Hulk story!

Sigh. Anyway, if you’re looking for a nice anthology in your local comics shoppe, pick up Creepshow first, then the DC book, then this one. It’s not bad … but the others are better.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Speak truth to power, Mysterio!


Ten Days That Shook the World by John Reed. 398 pgs, 2002, Tantallon Press.

This edition is from 2002, not the original, obviously, which was published in 1919. But this edition has a nice introduction from the editor, plus Lenin’s brief introduction from the 1922 edition, so that’s nifty. This is an interesting book, one that probably all students of 20th-century history ought to read, because the Bolshevik Revolution was so important to 20th-century history. Reed doesn’t even try to be objective, which is part of the book’s … charm, I guess? Despite being a journalist, Reed is not writing a news story, but the way he saw the Russian Revolution play out, and from his own limited perspective, which makes it both a valuable and occasionally limited work, as Reed is a very good observer but, at least in this case, not terribly good at providing other sources to back his writing up (there are a lot of endnotes, but they’re not terribly useful, unfortunately). He gives us some background of what was going on in Petrograd specifically and Russia in general during the months leading up to October 1917, and that’s helpful, and he does a good job untangling the many agendas of the many political parties that were jockeying for power in the months leading up to the Bolshevik takeover. He’s not completely slavish in his devotion to the Bolsheviks – he doesn’t seem to like Trotsky all that much, and even his praise for Lenin isn’t as fulsome as you might expect – but he’s clearly on their side. He is not a fan of Kerensky or the Provisional Government, even though it’s clear that they were doing the best they could, which comes through in his reporting even as he’s heaping some scorn on them. He did, however, have very good access to the Bolsheviks and to Petrograd, so the best parts of the book are when he wanders through the halls of the Smolny Institute – the Bolshevik headquarters on the east side of the city – and when he takes to the streets simply to tell us what’s going on during those fraught days. Those passages are very well done, as Reed gives us both the sausage-making of the Revolution – because the Bolsheviks were not the strongest party when the “ten days” began, but they had two political and demagogic geniuses on their side, and that swung the tide – and the mood in the city as the parties struggled for power, and he does a nice job showing how the “man on the street” dealt with such things. When he gets to the bigger picture, he falters a bit, possibly because he was toeing the Bolshevik line and doesn’t really have inside sources to back him up, only hearsay (which might be true, but might not). Obviously, the book takes on a different slant as we know how the Bolsheviks abused their power as much as the tsars did, but Reed didn’t know about that, and while he was very much a radical, he also thinks that Lenin and Trotsky will be good for the peasants and workers of Russia, and so he tends to write as if no one else has their interests at heart (which, again, might have been true, but very often it feels like Reed is simply producing propaganda). So that’s frustrating. But it’s still an important book, and Reed’s writing is good, so it zips along nicely (the endnotes, as I mentioned, aren’t very helpful – they’re mostly just the entire texts of things he references in the main body of the book, which is fine, but don’t provide much back-up documentation to most of what he writes). The funniest thing in the book is probably Reed unironically parroting the Bolshevik party line about Finland and Ukraine proclaiming their independence, as the Bolsheviks claimed they were for self-determination for all ethnicities within the Russian Empire, but because the Finns and Ukrainians weren’t electing Soviets to run their government, they were doing it “the wrong way.” It’s good to know that, at least with regard to Ukraine, there’s no animosity left there!

I didn’t love this book, but I’m glad I read it. It’s a very good eyewitness account of a monumental event, so even if it’s slanted, it’s still important. It’s hard to understand the history of the United States in the 20th century without understanding some of Russian history, after all!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors by James Reston, Jr. 363 pgs, 2005, Anchor Books.

Reston puts Columbus’s voyages in a nice context in this book, as most of the time, we hear about Columbus sailing the ocean blue and don’t appreciate from where he was sailing and why it was important. The second half of the fifteenth century is an inflection point in world history, as Spain finally united – through the marriage of Ferdinand to Isabella, to be sure, so it was a fragile unity because when Isabella died, her part of the kingdom did not go to Ferdinand right away – and wiped out the last vestiges of the Muslim presence on the peninsula, setting the stage for the country to become a world power in the sixteenth century. 1492 is Spain’s annus mirabilus, even though we don’t want to think it is, with the capture of Granada ending Islam’s 700-year presence, Columbus claiming the entire New World for Spain, and Ferdinand and Isabella expelling the Jews – all things, as it turned out, that were pretty awful for the people on the receiving end, but for good, wholesome, Catholic Spaniards, a pretty cool development. Reston goes through the politics of the day, as he shows how the union of Ferdinand and Isabella began an apocalyptic, revelatory attitude toward religion and destiny – both of them aligned themselves heavily with Catholicism, even more than their predecessors, so their fight against Islam and Judaism took on a more fervent tone than that of previous rulers. The Jubilee Year of 1500 was approaching, and some Catholics believed that the end of this world was coming, which made the reprehensible tortures of the Inquisition – which was revived and modified at this time to be far more malevolent than it had been previously – seem a bit more understandable. Early in their reign, the monarchs had to deal with a war with Portugal, and then they had to deal with resistance to the Inquisition, so they couldn’t fight their crusade against the Muslims as vigorously as they wanted. By 1492, they were ready to destroy anyone who didn’t adhere strictly to their version of Catholicism … a version, needless to say, that placed a great deal of emphasis on loyalty to the monarch rather than to the corrupt papacy (which, somewhat ironically, was ruled, starting in August 1492, by a Spaniard – Rodrigo Borgia, one of the most corrupt popes in a long period of corrupt popes).

Reston has a strong bias against the intolerance of the Inquisitors and the duplicity of the monarchy with regard to their non-Christian subjects, whom they claim will be allowed to practice their religion before they inevitably turn on them. He blames churchmen like Tomás de Torquemada, the famous Inquisitor, but he certainly doesn’t let the rulers off the hook. He makes sure we know all about the relative tolerance of the Muslim regime in Spain (it wasn’t quite as rosy as some modern writers like to portray it, but it certainly was a hell of a lot better than Golden Age Spain) and he does a nice job showing how the Jews and Muslims lived in the late 1400s, on the margins as the Catholics encroached further and further into their lives. His focus on Granada is nicely done, as we rarely hear about the end of the caliphate and how Ferdinand was able to destroy it – petty squabbles, as usual – so that part of the book is appreciated. Into this stew steps Columbus, and Reston does a good job sketching out who Columbus was and how he managed to get Isabella, most notably, on his side. He gives us a human Columbus – certainly not a terribly good man, and one with some lousy character traits that would turn extremely nasty later in life, but he’s also not a monster, just someone who believed so fervently in himself that he couldn’t see anything bad in anything he did. Reston also puts Columbus into the Portugal-Spain rivalry quite well, which is always important to know when you’re talking about the explorer. It’s a good, comprehensive book that goes over a lot of topics, and Reston manages to create a good portrait of a world that feels a bit too familiar, unfortunately.

This is the second Reston book I’ve read, and he’s an enjoyable writer. He does a good job synthesizing a coherent narrative for a time period and putting things into a wider context, which is always a good thing when we’re talking about history. I might have to pick up another one of his books!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆


Gazpacho, Bravo, Kscope, 2003.

I bought this album partially because noted music aficionado Eric von Schaik mentioned them in one of his comments about music some time ago, and partially because he said that they were fans of Marillion, my favorite band (their name is the name of a 1995 Marillion song). I wasn’t sure which album to get, though, so I figured I’d start at the beginning with their debut album and see where we go. I haven’t quite made up my mind if I’m going to get any more of their albums – this is decent enough, but it’s a bit turgid, and that wears you down after a bit. Some albums I can listen to straight through, and some I enjoy far more on, say, my phone, where each song is mixed in with others and the … turgidness? turgidity? doesn’t get to me. “Desert,” the first song, is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. It has a vague Arabic feel to it, with a nice weaving acoustic guitar and a skipping drum that gets a bit overwhelmed by the droning electric guitar that comes in. Jan-Henrik Ohme, the lead vocalist, doesn’t have the strongest voice, so the lyrics get a bit lost in the mix, which is frustrating. The lyrics are opaque to a degree, which makes the weaker vocalizing even more annoying. “Sea of Tranquility” continues the trend, with a nice, snaky tune that builds to a tragic chorus, slightly weaker vocals, and a tendency to go on a bit too long. It’s tough, because almost every song on the album follows the same pattern. The music is usually quite good – a bit dank, but still well done – and it drowns out the words. Even when the band gets a bit rocking, as they do on “California,” this pattern is still evident. The best song on the album is probably “Novgorod,” possibly because the band recruits Esther Valentine to sign a duet, and her voice cuts through the music a bit better (and it makes me wonder if the album would have been better if Valentine sang every song). The band obviously has some chops, especially when it comes to the music (and the lyrics ARE pretty good, when you can hear them – “We’re all sitcom infants with some god that must hate us” is pretty cool, for instance), but this is a frustrating album. I’ve only listened to it straight through a few times, and I like the songs a lot more when they’re sprinkled into a random mix on my phone with more upbeat stuff. I may have to try one more of Gazpacho’s albums, but we shall see!


Let’s take a quick look at the “classic” reprints I got this month! One of them I will treat as a graphic novel and will write an actual review a bit later, because it’s old but for reasons hasn’t been available in all its glory, so I’m going to act like it’s new. I only got two others:

PS Artbooks continues its erratic publishing schedule with Seven Seas Comics #1-2, 4-6 in a nice collection. I do like the hardcover versions of these books because they actually have credits in them, but they’re a bit expensive and I can just hunt down the credits on my own. It has that nice Matt Baker cover and some interior art by Baker, plus some other cool stuff. A Very British Affair is a collection of romance comics from the 1950s to the 1980s, and it looks superb. I’m sure the stories are goofy, but the art is really nice. That’s all she wrote for this month!

Here’s the money I spent in March:

1 March: $55.00
8 March: I BOUGHT ZERO COMICS ON THIS DATE AND MY WORLD HAS NO MEANING ANYMORE (Seriously – one trade was supposed to come out, but I guess it didn’t, and so I bought no comics. WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!?!)
15 March: $149.18 (I’m back, baby!)
22 March: $209.91 (Sigh. A bunch of trades, but a big “classic” reprint jacked it up higher.)
29 March: $179.55 (Double sigh.)

Money spent in March: $593.64 (March 2022: $1231.66; March 2021: $562.89)
YTD: $1419.79 (At this point in 2022: $2762.87; At this point in 2021: $1639.44)

So that’s encouraging, even if it’s still too much.

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

AfterShock: 1 (1 single issue)
AWA Studios: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Black Caravan: 1 (1 single issue)
Boom! Studios: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Dark Horse: 7 (3 graphic novels, 4 single issues)
DC: 3 (3 single issues)
Fantagraphics: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
HarperCollins: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Image: 8 (4 single issues, 4 trade paperbacks)
Living the Line: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Mad Cave: 3 (1 graphic novel, 1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
Marvel: 9 (2 single issues, 7 trade paperbacks)
PS Artbooks: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Rebellion/2000AD: 2 (1 “classic” reprint, 1 trade paperback)
Vault: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Viz: 3 (3 manga volumes)

And here’s the breakdown of each format (with the numbers in parentheses showing the year thus far):

3 “classic” reprints (11)
6 graphic novels (13)
3 manga volumes (4)
16 single issues (31)
17 trade paperbacks (31)

Here’s the publisher breakdown through March:

Abrams ComicArts: 1 (1 graphic novel)
AfterShock: 2 (2 single issues)
AWA: 3 (3 trade paperbacks)
Battle Quest Comics: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Beacon Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Black Caravan: 2 (2 single issues)
Boom!: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Dark Horse: 15 (3 “classic” reprints, 3 graphic novels, 9 single issues)
DC: 8 (1 “classic” reprint, 5 single issues, 2 trade paperbacks)
Fantagraphics: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
HarperCollins: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Image: 19 (9 single issues, 10 trade paperbacks)
Lev Gleason: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Living the Line: 2 (2 graphic novels)
Mad Cave: 3 (1 graphic novel, 1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
Marvel: 12 (1 “classic” reprint, 3 single issues, 8 trade paperbacks)
Oni: 2 (2 graphic novels)
PS Artbooks: 3 (3 “classic” reprints)
Rebellion/2000AD: 4 (3 “classic” reprints, 1 trade paperback)
Roaring Brook Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Titan Comics: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Vault: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Viz Media: 4 (4 manga volumes)


It’s NCAA Basketball Tournament time, and usually I don’t fill out a bracket because I don’t work in an office or have a huge circle of friends living right near me, but this year my boss said someone in her neighborhood was running a pool, so I filled out her bracket for her. As you might expect if you’ve been following the tournament, my bracket is in a shambles, as this year’s tournament is one of the most unpredictable one in history (which makes it more fun, of course, but harder to figure out). I picked Arizona to win it all … and they lost in the first game. Sigh. The tournament always brings its share of wackiness, though, so let’s check out some highlights!

The cheerleaders for Furman University get to have a good cheer (obviously, most of these need the sound on, if you’re the kind of person – like me – who uses their computer with the speakers muted):

Here’s a very committed Northern Kentucky fan:

Here’s the Providence Friar mascot starring in a horror movie, it seems:

One of the weirdest dudes on basketball television is Charles Barkley, and every March, the Turner networks put him on NCAA duty despite the fact that for the rest of the year, he’s on NBA duty. But, hey, he’s entertaining, and that’s all that counts! He does get to tell some stories, though, and they go to some odd places, like this one. I just love the reaction of his co-hosts, who are also ex-NBA players and don’t know what the hell he’s talking about:

Of course, betting on the tournament is big business, like betting on any sports, and that leads to “bad beats” – things that don’t alter the game result in any way but can mess up a bettors’ life, usually hilariously. Here’s one of them, recorded in real time: A dude took Alabama and the points (The Tide went off at +22.5, because they were a #1 seed and were expected to win easily), and they were winning by 24, so all was good in the world, and then this happened:

The best part about it is the two dudes playing like the game is on the line when that basket is meaningless. Keep playing, my end-of-the-bench dudes! Screw those bettors!

The coach of Arkansas is into it, man:

Missouri lost, and this impeccably dressed fan was sad:

Live interviews with the participants aren’t always great, but you might get something fun, and with college students, there seems to be a greater possibility that they’re going to curse. I love the reporters’ reaction in the first clip:

Kansas State beat Michigan State in the third round (the “Sweet 16”), and we got this unreal Alley-Oop from Markquis Nowell, in which he fakes the Spartans out by appearing to argue with his coach while he’s bringing the ball up before launching a beautiful no-look pass. Here are two views of the play:

Then we have this amazing shot, which … didn’t count. The NCAA has an odd rule that says if the ball goes over the backboard from anywhere, even if it doesn’t touch anything, the ball is out of bounds. In the NBA, this counts, and we’ve seen players make shots like this. It’s very weird that a player can leap from inside the court, not touch anything, launch the ball and have it not touch anything out of bounds, but it’s technically out of bounds. Come on, NCAA, make shots like this legal!

There are other sports being sported, as well. The NCAA Wrestling Championships took place, and Penn State – ho-hum – won its 10th team title in the past 12 years. They’re a very good team, in other words. However, it was a tiny bit of a down year, as they had five individual finalists but only two of those won titles, which is a bit odd during this run – they’ve been excellent at picking up individual titles. The big news of the championships, however, was that Spencer Lee, Iowa’s dominant wrestler who was trying for his fourth consecutive national title, lost. And he lost in the semi-finals, too. And he was pinned, which is a big deal. His mother, a former Olympian herself, did not take it well:

Some people have been picking on her a bit, and she does act a bit petulantly, but I don’t mind that she freaked out – she was probably as shocked as anyone that her son got pinned. I’m just impressed she absolutely destroyed her own glasses. Dang!

One Penn Stater, Carter Starocci, won his individual title with a pin. It’s a thing of beauty:

Moving on, baseball is starting, and that means umpires are stupid. Here’s Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto getting ejected from a spring training game for (probably) accidentally moving his glove before the ump puts a new ball in it, thereby making the ump think he was “showing him up.” Man, some people have thin skins. Are robot umps here yet?

The world keeps spinning, however, and there’s news of it out there! As you might recall, I am a huge fan of unintended consequences, especially when it comes to bonehead politicians passing bonehead laws and then finding out people who disagree with the law can use it in ways they didn’t – say it with me – intend. Recently, it’s been Republicans passing laws that they think will be used to discriminate against “undesirables” – you know, those weird brown people and those weird men who like dudes and those other people who aren’t like you and me, you know, good people – and because they can’t actually write laws stating that, they have to be vague, which leaves room for … fun interpretations. And so we head to Utah, where the legislature has been having fun “banning” books from schools – not really, they say, but yes, actually – but they can’t state that they don’t like those “gay” books, so they had to be vague. Which means someone can … try to get the Bible banned. I mean, that thing is full of incest, rape, horrific violence – won’t someone think what all that s-e-x might do to the c-h-i-l-d-r-e-n?!?!?

Of course, the legislator behind the law thinks it’s “sad” that people are wasting the board’s time with these things when there’s gay porn in third-grade classrooms all around Utah! (I mean, apparently.) But I say, challenge that Bible! It’s too insane for the youngsters! They might think it’s okay to spy on women when they’re bathing or that they can get their parents drunk and have sex with them! We can’t have that!

Meanwhile, in America’s schlong, Governor Meatball Ron and his cronies want to expand the “Don’t Say Gay” law to include all grades of school. I mean, of course they do – that’s what they wanted the entire time, but as we know, insidious politicians always start small, see what they can get away with, and then expand. That’s just the way it is! What I don’t get is that, in an effort to make sure the law didn’t discriminate, Florida politicians couldn’t target gay people, so the law is about domestic arrangements, so it seems that someone would have already sued if a teacher mentioned their significant other, even if it was a wholesome “normal” heterosexual marriage. You mean to tell me that since this law went into effect, not one female teacher has said something her husband, or vice versa? I find that difficult to believe. Someone needs to get these teachers to stop talking about their opposite sex life partners! Those kids are there to learn important stuff about Confederate generals, not who their teacher is diddling at home!

Speaking of unintended consequences, it seems that Wyoming Republicans’ new very comprehensive abortion ban might be thwarted … by Wyoming Republicans! Ten years ago, when Wyoming Republicans were grumpy about Obamacare, they got an amendment to the state constitution overwhelmingly passed that gave Wyomingans (Wyomingites?) the right to choose their own healthcare, which could hold up their abortion ban. Of course, they’re arguing that abortions are not healthcare, which the judge who granted an injunction against the new ban doesn’t seem inclined to agree with. I love me some unintended consequences! How dare the people of Wyoming exercise a right that the Republicans were very much behind when it passed?!?!?

And now, here is some fun stuff (at times this does and doesn’t appear here, but if you click the blank images, you can see them):

View post on imgur.com

This is a dumb joke, but I will look at and listen to Karen Gillan read the damned phone book, so …

View post on imgur.com

A crocodile running around really fast is kind of terrifying:

View post on imgur.com

Here’s a map of the best-selling musical groups in each English county. I don’t know exactly how accurate it is, but check out Marillion as the best-selling band from Buckinghamshire. Their “home base” is Aylesbury, where they formed, and they continue to work in the area. There are some interesting names on this list. Good for T’Pau!

Someone posted this on Facebook. I love that the goose has claimed its spot and is not going to take any shit from anyone who tries to move it:


In my ongoing battle against corpulence, I weigh … 257.8, which means I lost 1 pound in March. Better than nothing, right? Here’s what we have so far:

January: -2.1
February: +.1
March: -1

Meanwhile, the beard keeps on growing. Here’s the latest gif, which you can actually see on the blog instead of clicking on it. The first one is the one where I’m wearing a gray shirt. Did I take one of the photos with no shirt on? Why, yes, I did, so check out my sexy shoulders!

Hey, since I’m in a reviving old things from long ago kind of mood, let’s see what the Most Recent Ten Songs On My Phone (Which Is Always On Shuffle) are:

1. “Call Off Your Ghost” – Dessa (2013) “Now you’re asking, ‘Can’t we just be friends?’ but this pain in my chest still rings”
2. “Orange Blossom Special” – Johnny Cash (1968) “Well, I’m going down to Florida and get some sand in my shoes”
3. “From Out Of Nowhere” – Faith No More (1989) “Obsession rules me, I’m yours from the start”
4. “Drunken Boat” – Pogues (1993) “We squared off on a dockside with a couple a hundred Finns, we dallied in the Dilly and we stoaked ourselves in gin”1
5. “Nervous In Suburbia” – Crazy 8’s2 (1985) “Don’t let Junior out at night”
6. “Blind To The Beautiful” – Fish (2013) “Hurricanes with children’s names write our history”
7. “My Beautiful Leah” – PJ Harvey (1998) “She only had nightmares and her sadness never lifted”
8. “Sun King” – The Cult (1989) “I’m a regal man, I’ll do what I can to take you off to the promised land”
9. “Spoonman” – Soundgarden (1994) “All my friends are skeletons (and beat the rhythm with their bones)”
10. “Promises Of Eternity” – Magnetic Fields (1999) “What if the clowns couldn’t be clowns and all those painted smiles gave in to plaintive frowns”3

1 Best Pogues song? Top Five, definitely!

2 I an aware of only three people in the world who know the Crazy 8’s, and one of them reads and occasionally contributes to this blog!

3 I don’t think 69 Love Songs really gets the credit as the astonishing masterpiece it is. Maybe it does?

Phew, this is a long post. I know I threw in a lot of “real-world” stuff at the end, just because I found it whilst I was wandering the internet and thought it would be fun to share, but even the comics-related stuff is a lot! (You might have noticed I didn’t write about television, but that’s because we’re in the middle of a long series that took up the entire month, so I didn’t actually finish a series in March.) I’m trying to make sure I write about almost everything I get this year, because I am trying to get less and therefore I should be able to keep up. What do you guys think? Is this too much, and should I go back to a “top five” and just a bit about the rest? That has its merits, but occasionally I do like tearing into a mediocre comic like Spider-Punk, which I wouldn’t do if I limited myself. I know we like to pride ourselves on long posts that aren’t exactly “internet-ready,” but what say you? Is this too much content? I am perfectly happy to listen to the readers!

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the nicer weather while I live in dread of the approaching heat!!!!


  1. tomfitz1

    Burgas: is that Pam Grier with a trident?

    Is that Margot Robbie covered in blood taking a drag on a cigarette?

    Just curious, what happens if you said gay?

    1. Greg Burgas

      That is indeed Pam Grier. Come on!

      That is Samara Weaving in Ready or Not, not Margot Robbie. I agree, the resemblance is there.

      Do you mean in Florida? I assume the governor would force you to hang out on Miami Beach for a while, where we can be safely assured there are no gay people whatsoever!

  2. Eric van Schaik

    I bought nothing in march. The reason was our vacation to Brasil.
    We had 25 fantastic days. Highlights were Rio and the Iguazu waterfalls, but the other places were beautiful too.
    We bought some shirts (me 3, my wife 1).
    You can find quit a few photo’s of my wifes FB.

    I did some reading. Just Impossible Jones and Stray Toasters by the Sink.

    Too bad you bought the first Gazpacho on my recommendation. I’m honored you did. I get it you didn’t like it. I don’t have the first 2 to be honest.
    You should try Night and it’s possible to listen to it at YouTube. They are working on a new album but will do 1 concert in: Holland. Yeah for me. 🙂

    1. Greg Burgas

      Those are very cool pictures, sir. Your wife is using some odd language, though – it looks totally fake to me, a wise ‘Murican!!!! 🙂

      No worries about the CD – I do like it, just in small bursts, as it sounds like they recorded it during a particularly sad rainstorm. I will have to get another album and see what’s what!

      1. Eric van Schaik

        Odd language? That’s Dutch man! 🙂 Use Google Translate and discover a beautiful language. 😉

        We made 2.800 photo’s and she had a hard time selecting what to put on FB.

        The only thing bad about our trip were all those biting mosquito’s and other bugs on Ilha do Mel, a nice small island near the coast.

  3. HAL 2000

    Gosh and golly Perfect was a weird movie. The Jamie Lee Curtis GIF is both hot (because she had a…perfect body. It’s a terrible pun – huzzah!) and off-putting my bizarre. Is *that* what people did in exercise classes then, it’s like a cut scene from a porn remake of Cronenberg’s Shivers/They Came From Within before things get nasty (and not *good* nasty). I’m surprised she didn’t get groin strain. She still looks good now, of course. Years ago she was odd, she said she’d didn’t really relate to Laurie Strode in Halloween because Laurie was bookish. Extroverts are weird, they’d probably “relate” (a creepy overused now in its current meaning because too many people appear to require that others be *exactly* like them to be “relatable”. Booooorrrrriiiiinnnng and dubious concept!) more to characters who were serial killers as long as they were outgoing. Arf.
    Jamie Lee, Pam, Bikini Girl, Maude Flanders (Hah), and Lynda Carter/Wonder Woman… Then you eclipse them all with Karen Gillan. Perfect! How has she become more incredibly beautiful over the past five years or so? Nice to see a gorgeous pale redhead getting work. Notice how redhead characters get recast as non-redheads? Not just redhead men who are the objects of the only acceptable prejudice among the strenuously “liberal” but redhead *women* too, many of whom are goddesses! So says I. Interesting. Of course, never let it be said that most people aren’t bastards. Really. Never let it be said.
    Although it’s unfortunate that Chris Bachalo can’t often keep up with series for long, it’s understandable Marvel still hire him. He’s great, if it’s between him and Kelly Thompson, he’s the innovator, the gifted one, and the star no matter how successful Ms Thompson has become. In my opinion. As you are her friend I respect you might have a different opinion. Still, I like Bachalo a LOT more than Javier Rodriguez so there’s THAT too… Placed against that there was the odd way Bachalo drew Spider-Man in the fairly recent Non-Stop Spider-Man (you know, the series that…stopped); he gave him a head like a partially squashed pumpkin. It was as goofy as Ms Thompson having her characters speak in the same faux-witty you get in many series now. (Jab jab, prod prod.)
    I wonder if you’ve read Edmund Morris’s books on Theodore Roosevelt and his fictionalized biography of Reagan, Dutch, or Evan Thomas’s Being Nixon: A Man Divided, Greg? I was watching old episodes of Conan O’Brien’s Serious Jibber Jabber on YouTube featuring interviews with those two biographers and wondered if you might have imbibed their works.
    America Chavez: obnoxious Mary Sue or just obnoxious Writer’s Pet? As much as I’m repulsed by the opinions of conservative smuggos throughout the comicsphere, the writing of America, Miles Morales, and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel in recent years leaves something to be desired. Too often characters *in-story* and commentators outside seem to treat those characters as super-duper marvelous. It’s weird that when Miles and certainly Carol were treated as flawed interesting human beings rather than as symbols they were better characters. Sure, Bendis may have been close to self-fellating at times for creating a biracial character but Miles was – generally though *not always* – before entering the primary Marvel Universe a good compelling character. Similarly, it’s only in the 2010s that Captain Carol became The Most Incredible Woman Who Ever Lived in the eyes of various characters in-universe. That wouldn’t seem to be good writing and also gives ammunition to people who really shouldn’t be supplied with it (they’ve often got real guns anyway… Joking!), the kind of goofballs/assmonkeys who didn’t like Monica Rambeau being so powerful as Captain Marvel (my favourite!) for reasons that unfortunately don’t surpasseth all understanding. Hm. Oof. This was all sparked by Al Ewing’s boner for America Chavez, a character as obnoxious as Tony Stark at his worse and J. Jonah Jameson in the 1960s-80s. Goofy. It just irritates the hell out of me. And I’m very irritable. Surprise!
    Great column, Greg. Certainly it isn’t too long, if people have devolved to the point that something of *this* length is considered prolix then the collective Human race should suckle on a shotgun. Or at least the ones who see it as a chore to read it. See, I *said* I was irritable. (I’m also not wrong. Shhhhh…)

    1. Greg Burgas

      Hal: Non-Stop Spider-Man stopped because Bachalo got COVID, I think. I could be wrong. Bachalo is definitely more innovative, at this point, than Thompson, but that doesn’t mean she’s not excellent!

      I haven’t read those books, sadly. Too much to read!

      I’ve never understood the love some writers have for America Chavez. She’s a perfectly fine character, but I haven’t read anything with her in it where someone does something amazing with her. So I get you.

      Stop being irritable, sir! 🙂

    2. I gave a synopsis of “Perfect” to a co-worker of mine to fill time on lunch break. She stared at me: “That was all there was to it?” IIRC, Curtis wanted the role of one of the supporting characters who’s convinced if she gets the perfect body her life will be perfect.

  4. Darthratzinger

    Cats And Dogs
    New Direction
    Start Today

    Whats the movie where the two ladies get their heads ripped off? I know it but can´t remember the name.
    The map of the best-selling groups in every English county needs to be immediately copied in Germany and will undoubtedly get absolutely terrifying results.

  5. John King

    I’m surprised just how many of those groups I’ve never heard of

    One interesting detail is the area to the right of Leicester/Kasabian is the small county of Rutland which has no cities and a large section is underwater resulting in a small population so it is unsurprising that no real group has apparently originated there.
    However, fictional group, the Rutles (a Beatles parody) do officially originate there.

      1. John King

        I’m British and into music (though I have never truly believed myself to be cool) so know most of them – it’s just a few that either have never been particularly successful in the UK (China Drum, Spooky Tooth) or have had a little success recently (Aphex Twin, FKA Twigs) -which comes to a total of 8 I don’t recognise – including one that formed in the town I was born in.
        It looks to me that most of the top acts come from big cities (London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield) but you only get one from each city on this chart.

  6. Der

    Man, this is a big one. Not complaining because I really like these long posts, even when they take me some time to finish

    I don’t remember when was the last time I updated you guys on my how things are down here, so here it goes

    -At the end of last year my wife got a job out of nowhere and now our economic woes are going away. But since she doesn’t want to work more in that area we are trying to save a lot and pay our debts so she can start something else.

    Also our family exploded during december, we decided that we wanted to adopt a new puppy but instead got two from someone that found lots of puppies on the streets, and while walking the new puppies we befriended another dog and it turned out that the dog was a stray and now we went from two old dogs and small (one is 14-16 and the other is 9) to five dogs three of those are less than a year old and one of those is really big. So yeah, lots of fun, lots of chewed up things all around too

    During march I got not one, but TWO comics!

    I turned 40 in march, so I got presents and changes. I got Grand Dolls by Tezuka, this one I’m not sure it’s in english, but there is a spanish publisher that is printing some other works by Tezuka and it sounds interesting. Also I got the Man of Steel Vol 3, but I’m waiting to get the next volume to read it. Also I got a new job that pays enough to buy stuff again. Not enough to compare to Greg’s budget but enough to get by*.

    Since I got a new job with decent pay, I decided to buy wood to make bookcases instead of buying more books. It took me like a month to make them, they are not the best, but are decent and finally, finally, after like seven or eight years I have all my books in bookcases and room to spare. That makes me really happy.

    *I’m kidding. I can spend the same amount Greg spent in march in comics and it wouldn’t break our budget. It would be totally irresponsible, but I could do it

    1. Greg Burgas

      That’s excellent, sir. I know something about going through such things, and it’s so nice when it is alleviated a bit. I hope it keeps getting better for you!

      Dang, that’s too many dogs. Enjoy!

      I could never make even close to functional bookshelves, so kudos to you!

      Yay! I’m irresponsible! 🙂

Leave a Reply

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