Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

What I bought, read, watched, or otherwise consumed – May 2024

“Legions of scholars have wondered whether Christ laughed. The question doesn’t interest me much. I believe he never laughed, because, omniscient as the son of God had to be, he knew how we Christians would behave.” (Umberto Eco, from The Name of the Rose)


Count Crowley: Mediocre Midnight Monster Hunter by David Dastmalchian (writer), Lukas Ketner (artist), Lauren Affe (colorist), and Frank Cvetkovic (letterer). $19.96, 96 pgs, Dark Horse.

The thing that bugs me most about this comic is that Dastmalchian is writing it a bit like an old-school comic, but it’s published like a new-school one. It comes out in 4-issue chunks, which you would believe means it exists in discrete arcs that have recurring characters, sure, but basically stand on their own. You’d be wrong, though, and that’s why it bugs me a bit. I don’t mind that the arcs tend to end on cliffhangers after the main plot has wrapped up, because that’s a good way to entice readers back, but even then, the arcs don’t really have a main plot. In this one, there’s a weird, masked clown who preys on children, and our hero, Jerri, has to figure out what’s coming on and how to fix it, which she only sort of does (she’s a mediocre monster hunter, as the title states), but even that main plot is not the focal point of this arc. It doesn’t take up a ton of time, because Dastmalchian has so many other irons in the fire. Jerri continues to deal with some of the other monster hunters around, who are still wildly sexist (the book, I ought to remind people, is set in 1983, so while sexism certainly hasn’t disappeared, it is easier to get if old men in 1983 are unable to see Jerri’s worth than it would in 2024 … although, sadly, not by much), she has to process the death of a friend, she has to deal with a vampire who comes to town looking for her, and she’s picked up a cat that is obviously something more than just a regular cat, although we don’t know much about that yet. Plus, there’s a woman in Kansas City who’s running a very disturbing brothel, and that ties into what’s going on in Jerri’s town, too. It’s a lot. It’s wonderfully old-school, from a time when comics didn’t break down into “arcs” so easily, and it’s very cool … except, as I noted, it’s published like a “new-school” comic, which means Ketner is the only artist who works on the book (I don’t know if he co-owns the concept), and he doesn’t seem like the fastest dude, plus Dastmalchian does have, you know, a day job, so who knows how fast he is, which means arcs come out fairly infrequently (it’s taken 4½ years for, what, 12 issues to come out?). I don’t mind too much, because Ketner is a good artist and I’m always keen to see his art, but it does annoy me a bit, because it’s always tough to remember what’s going on. I mean, I suppose I could just re-read all the issues when a new arc is finished (which I might do next time), but, dang, am I made of time here, people?

Still, it’s a cool horror-ish, tragicomic comic, and Ketner is a very good artist, and I enjoy it. Maybe we’ll get a new arc in 2025!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

A little aloe, and you’ll be right as rain!

Deep Cuts by Kyle Higgins (writer), Joe Clark (writer), Danilo Bayruth (artist), Helena Masellis (artist), Diege Greco (artist), Ramón K. Pérez (artist), Juni Ba (artist), Toby Cypress (artist), Igor Monti (colorist), and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (letterer). $24.99, 288 pgs, Image.

This is a comic about jazz, and if you know anything about me, you know that I am not a fan of jazz (actually, that’s not true – you probably know a lot about me without necessarily knowing that I’m not a big fan of jazz, but I like to be dramatic, k?), so I should hate it, right? Well, luckily, as much as Alan Moore likes to pretend otherwise, you can’t actually hear comics, so I can certainly read a comic about jazz without having to worry about, you know, actually listening to jazz. And I’m glad I did, because this is a terrific comic book, and it would be too bad if anyone skipped it because of a (right and good) aversion to jazz. Higgins, who seems to meander around doing decent but standard work to pay the bills, breaks one of these things out every so often, and it’s clear he’s a very talented writer who wants to, you know, eat, and I’m fine with that. Here he gives us different chapters about jazz, spanning 60 years of the 20th century (1917-1977, with each chapter sticking basically to a limited time frame), and how it was shaped by the country and how different musicians dealt with it. The stories stand alone, but Higgins and Clark do begin to make links to other ones, until we get a very nice final chapter that still stands on its own but also illuminates some of the previous chapters more. There’s a lot going on here, as you can tell by the length of the book – each chapter is 48 pages long, and that allows Higgins and Clark to breathe a bit and give us full portraits of the many characters in the book. If I have a criticism, it’s that occasionally it feels a bit too busy, and some characters become a bit clichéd as a result … but that’s a very minor criticism, as it doesn’t happen often and the rest of the characters are so interesting.

In issue #1, we’re in New Orleans in 1917, and a young clarinet player wants to play jazz and he finds a mentor to help him out … but the mentor isn’t the best person for him, and he gets some hard lessons in life, trust, and even good business practices. In issue #2, a talented white songwriter wants to pen a hit song for her musical, which is set to open in 1928 Chicago, but she’s having a hard time until she discovers a black pianist in a speakeasy and learns more about jazz. She also has to learn some lessons about cultural appropriation (which, thank goodness no one calls it that) and living her own life, and the story does not end terribly happily (although it’s not a complete tragedy, either). We move to Kansas City in 1940, and a young girl watches as her father tries to get back into music, but will he do so at the expense of his wife and family? I like this story, but it feels like the most inconsequential of the bunch, although it’s, again, not bad at all. Issue #4 is the fulcrum, really, of the book, as we’re in New York in the 1950s and 1960s (Higgins and Clark skip around a bit), as several characters track the elusive single record of a great trumpet player who can’t stop using drugs. This is where the book slides ever-so-slightly toward cliché, although the writers do a very good job of making Dorian a complete character and Perez’s art goes a long way to making the story resonate. In issue #5, we find a character from issue #5 writing for a magazine in 1968 Los Angeles, on his last legs as a journalist, who is forced to cover a musician’s weird art show and is then forced to confront everything he thought he knew about jazz and creating art. Finally, in issue #6, we’re still in Los Angeles, but it’s 1977, and a musician in a band is peeved about having to pay his bills and play crappy music, and one of his bandmates begin researching some of the music he talks about, which is how Higgins and Clark pull it all together. It’s really well done, and each artist does a wonderful job with their issue. Bayruth’s work on issue #1 is the most straight-forward, I suppose, as it’s solidly done but lacks a tiny bit of imaginative flair. Masellis’s work in issue #2 feels the slightest bit Art Deco, which seems to fit the flapper age in which it’s set. Greco’s cartoony art in issue #3 is fine, too, but the interesting part of the issue is how Alice (the girl) interprets events and embellishes them in her imagination (she reads comics, so Higgins has her imagine comic-book scenarios with regard to her father and his musical past). Perez keeps things grounded in issue #4, which allows him to do some panels in different ways, from heavy hatching to show characters reminiscing to some more abstract shapes to show how people “hear” the music. Issues #5 and 6 are interesting, because Ba draws in a similar style to Cypress, with unreal human shapes – too angular, too disproportionate – that Cypress takes even further, and the two issues have a nice connection, as they’re the two most closely linked. I’ve always liked Cypress’s art, so his sharp angles, too-long legs, and wild hairstyles fit both the era and the music. Artistically, this is a fun book to check out.

Deep Cuts is one of the better books I’ve read this year. I mean, I don’t know much about jazz except I don’t like it, but the point is: this is a comic about what we do for our art, and what society does to us for our art. And that’s a universal kind of thing!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Seems like it would be difficult

Deer Editor by Ryan K. Lindsay (writer), Sami Kivelä (artist), Lauren Affe (colorist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Dan Hill (editor), and Chas! Pangburn (editor). $17.99, 72 pgs, Mad Cave Studios.

This comic is like a typical Ryan K. Lindsay book (I haven’t read all his work, but I’ve read a decent amount): it’s too short, it has a very good idea at its center, and it doesn’t quite stick the landing, possibly because it’s too short. Lindsay presents us with Bucky, the editor of a newspaper in a moderately-sized city, who just happens to be a deer. People comment on his deer-ness, so it’s not like they don’t know he’s a deer, but nobody seems particularly put out by the fact that he’s a deer. He has antlers (which get cut off during the course of the story), he has a keen sense of smell – he’s a deer, dang it, but he’s also the crusading editor of a newspaper, and he has a story to pursue! The oddness of the protagonist is the only thing that’s truly bizarre in the book – well, the villain turns out to be a bit weird, but nothing to out-of-the-ordinary in a comic – as Lindsay plays it like a straight, politically charged story: an anonymous dead guy in the morgue leads to the mayor’s office, and the mayor is, naturally, up to no good. Bucky and a few of his reporters pursue it, and the bad things pile up. It’s a nice, tense story that takes some advantage of the fact that the main character isn’t human, and it leads up to … well, kind of an anticlimactic ending, unfortunately. Lindsay seems to do this – he has cool ideas, but his stories tend to be short, and he can’t quite resolve them in the space he has. Is it him? Is it the company telling him he only gets three issues? I don’t know, but in this comic, for instance, Bucky puts all these things together, and then … not much. The ending, I guess, is supposed to be optimistic, but it feels a bit too optimistic, especially in this jaded age. It’s weird. Lindsay doesn’t want to make this an action comic, where the good guy simply kills the bad guy, and that’s fine, but it still feels abrupt, and it’s frustrating. It seems to be a feature of Lindsay’s writing, but I call it a bug, because it seems like he could be a much better writer, but he can’t quite bring it home.

Meanwhile, Kivelä continues to do phenomenal work – he really doesn’t get enough credit for being such a good artist, probably because he hasn’t drawn Batman or Spider-Man yet. His depiction of Bucky is terrific, as he really does look like a deer, but Kivelä is able to give him a range of emotions on his face that makes him more “human.” He uses nice thick lines, lots of blacks, and a judicious dropping of holding lines to create a gritty, realistic atmosphere, which makes the weirdness of Bucky stand out even more. Affe colors the entire book in blue tones, and Kivelä works nicely in that wintry setting to make the city a bit grimier. His hatching is superb, too, as it adds very nice texture to the characters and settings. Kivelä does a simple (and common) thing that works very well, too – he splits static scenes into two panels, so we’re forced to focus on different things within the panel. I always like seeing artists do that, because it’s very effective and it seems like it’s not as common as it should be. Overall, this is just a really nice-looking comic, and it’s keen that Kivelä can keep doing weirdo comics like this, even though I think his profile should be higher.

I will keep buying Lindsay’s comics, probably, even though they’re frustrating. I mean, they’re usually pretty keen until they become frustrating, so maybe one day they won’t get to that point. Wouldn’t that be nice!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Killing people with your own sawed-off antlers is pretty hardcore

Dracula by James Tynion IV (writer), Martin Simmonds (artist), Rus Wooton (letterer), and Alex Antone (editor). $24.99, 104 pgs, Image/Skybound.

Tynion and Simmonds continue to avoid doing more Department of Truth with this adaptation, which is a pretty good if vaguely unsatisfying Dracula story (yes, I know they’re supposed to be doing more DoT now – took them long enough!). Frankly, I’ve always been vaguely unsatisfied with Dracula adaptations, and I wish someone would do a really good one someday (Coppola’s tries, but it’s just goofily entertaining rather than, you know, good). I don’t know if the problem is with the way Stoker wrote the novel (it’s “epistolary,” in case you haven’t read it), but it seems like creators just can’t quite get it right. I mean, the novel is excellent, so there’s that, but it still bugs me. Tynion skips right to Dracula in England (it seems like it’s London, because it’s a decent-sized city, so I guess he’s skipping Dracula in Whitby, too), so we don’t get the voyage on the Demeter or Harker in Romania (the entire book takes place in England/London, so we don’t go to Romania at all), which is disappointing. Tynion is adapting the movie/play instead of the novel, I get that (the ship that brings Dracula to England is the Vesta, Lucy’s last name is “Weston”), but even that had Renfield in Romania, and here, we begin with Renfield already hopelessly insane. Again, publishing vagaries probably have something to do with that, as this is four tight issues and Tynion had to cover a lot, but it’s annoying. There are some technical problems with the story, too. In an effort to be mysterious, Tynion becomes a bit too opaque, as in one panel van Helsing refers to something he and Seward saw that does not appear in the book before this moment. I get that in movies, sometimes things are edited out and the continuity is screwed up, and perhaps that happened here – maybe Tynion and Simmonds produced some pages that needed to be cut, but then an editor (and the book has an editor!) has to catch that and do something about it. Dracula is a bit too mysterious – he literally says one thing in the entire book, and while I don’t mind that he’s mysterious, that seems a bit silly, especially as he’s supposed to be hypnotic to these women. It’s frustrating, because there doesn’t seem to be any reason for Lucy and Mina to be so captivated by him. He’s a predator, sure, and he doesn’t need to charm them, but that’s kind of baked into the concept, and Tynion doesn’t do enough to make it work here. It’s frustrating, because Tynion works to make the book spooky and atmospheric, and he does nice work with Renfield (whose role always seem to be bigger than it should be, no matter the adaptation, perhaps because insanity is more “fun” to write), but it’s still vaguely unsatisfying.

Simmonds’s art is excellent, but even he contributes a bit to the unsatisfying nature of the book (although he may just be doing what Tynion tells him to do). Simmonds’s Renfield is truly creepy, as Simmonds makes his face eerily white and mask-like (I mean, he can’t be evoking the Joker, can he????) but with just enough details so we know it’s his “real” face, and he herks and jerks across the pages in an extremely creepy manner. Dracula is terrific, too, as he’s a horrific monster who retains just enough sexiness so that we could see why the chicks would dig him (if, as I noted, Tynion had done a bit more with him). Simmonds keeps things relatively “realistic” for most of the book, so when he goes Sienkiewiczian, the impact is very effective and powerful. When Mina is turning into a vampire, he does marvelous work making her emaciated and terrifying, and he composes the pages very well, for the most part. A few times, it’s unclear what Dracula is doing or where he is, and that’s a bit frustrating, but again, I’m not sure if Tynion wanted it that way or if some pages had to be dropped and so it becomes confusing … I just don’t know. Generally, though, this is a gorgeous book.

I mean, good for Image and all, doing “Universal Monsters” stories and getting really good talent to do them. I don’t hate this at all, and think it’s worth a look, but it’s still a bit unsatisfying. I guess it’s just too hard to do a truly excellent Dracula adaptation!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

This won’t end well

Edenfrost by Amit Tishler (writer), Bruno Frenda (artist), Taylor Esposito (letterer), and James B. Emmett (editor). $17.99, 90 pgs, Mad Cave Studios.

I’ve often said I don’t love horror movies, but I kind of dig horror comics. Mostly it’s because in comics, you can’t do the most annoying thing about horror movies, and that’s the “jump scare,” which is where something jumps into the screen and everyone startles. That’s not scary, that’s just a natural reaction, and it’s annoying. I like horror in general because, like good sci-fi, writers can use the weirdness of the genre to comment on society, often in a more subtle way than if you were just writing a regular character drama. The plot is more important in genre fiction, so while you’re focusing on the plot, the more interesting commentary sneaks in through the side door, so to speak.

Which is to say, Edenfrost is an interesting horror/thriller/adventure, simply because Tishler sets it in Russia in the aftermath of World War I. Things were pretty bad then, don’tchaknow, and so it provides a good backdrop to a quasi-golem story. Two kids, Alex and Yuli, escape their burning village and flee into the forest in the middle of winter, and they end up with a woman in a cabin and the White Russian army looking for them. They were able to escape because, well, a monster saved them. In a nice twist, in the first issue, we’re not sure what’s going on with the monster, but in the second issue, we learn that Alex is able to control it – somewhat – and that it wants to be let out of … well, his mind, sort of, but it’s not that important (he doesn’t turn into the monster, but it’s clear that he’s mentally linked to it somehow). Yuli (who’s younger) wants him to release it, because she thinks it will just kill their enemies, but Alex knows he can’t control it as well as he’d like. So it becomes a challenge for him to figure out ways to keep them safe without using the monster (so, yes, it’s the tiniest bit like the Hulk, but not too much). It also becomes clear that he’s not the only one who can summon a monster, and when Yuli figures that out, bad things happen. There’s a lot of carnage in the book, in other words, because the monsters are, after all, quite powerful.

The other things in the book make it work better than just a standard monster story. The woman who finds them in the forest, Olena, seems to have it all together, but it quickly becomes clear that she doesn’t. She’s waiting for a soldier to return to her, a dude who claimed he would leave his wife for Olena and then went off to fight in the war, and Olena is not doing well without him there. She still thinks the Romanovs rule in St. Petersburg, and she clings to this fantasy because it’s the only thing that makes sense to her. The White Russians are depicted as cruel, but Olena is very anti-Communist, so Alex plays along with that even though we learn that his parents might have been targeted for their Communist sympathies. The sole Communist in the book is a sympathetic character, which is fine, but we don’t know if his superiors would be similarly sympathetic. Olean, who lives on the edge of sanity and would seem to be a natural ally of the White Russians and doesn’t trust Alex and Yuli, is not simply a crazed villain, as becomes clear later in the book. And the Communist – Boris – is interesting, because he’s Ukrainian, not Russian (the book is set in Ukraine, which is hardly subtle), and he’s vaguely Asian, which hearkens back to the Mongols settling in the Crimea for hundreds of years. The layers of the story aren’t hit too hard by Tishler, but they are there. Meanwhile, Frenda’s art works nicely on the book. It’s a bit over-rendered, but such is life in the brave new world of 21st-century comic book art, but his monsters are pretty cool and his characters are good and expressive – the way he draws Olena is particularly good, because he has to capture both her looming insanity and her utter sadness. His villain is oddly boyish, which might be unintentional or might be a commentary on how the rulers always use up the young in war. I could go with that latter thought, couldn’t you?

Tishler could go forward with this book, if he wants to and if he can, and this is a good enough arc that I’d be intrigued if it continued. If not, it does stand relatively alone, so there you go!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Hexagon Bridge volume 1 by Richard Blake (writer/artist) and Oliver Zeller (editor). $14.99, 129 pgs, Image Comics.

This is a true sci-fi book, meaning that Blake doesn’t just graft an action thriller onto a sci-fi template, but he gives us a thoughtful, odd story about artificial intelligence and alternate dimensions, and it’s neat to read. It’s not quite a great comic, but it is fascinating, because Blake is obviously playing a long game, so he can take his own damned time telling the story (I only hope he manages to get it done, as we’ve seen a lot of projects have strong starts and then never finish). Scientists discover a “bridge” to another dimension, and a husband and wife sent there to map it go missing. Years later, their daughter – who has some kind of psychic powers – and an artificial intelligence developed to interact with the other dimensions head there to find them. They discover wondrous worlds and AI beings far more advanced than what humans can create, and they find out a little about what’s going on. It’s a fairly vague plot, honestly, because Blake is only scratching the surface of it, and the point is not exactly the plot, but the way the daughter – Adley – and the AI – Staden – bond during their journey. How far along are the intelligences in this world? What does that mean for the humans? What does that mean to be human in a world with mechanical beings who appear more advanced in every way? These are, of course, heady questions, and Blake doesn’t attempt to answer them in this volume, but he throws them out there and hints around at exploring them in later issues. That’s always fun!

Blake’s art is terrific, and very much helps set the mood. He has a solid, “European” style – not ligne claire, as the lines are a bit too soft, but still precise line work with nicely washed colors. The design work in the alternate dimension is wonderful – he creates marvelous cities and worlds that are constantly shifting and blending, and it’s both beautiful and overwhelming. He uses the art to tell the story a lot – there are many wordless panels and even pages in this volume – as Adley and Staden travel across this alien-yet-familiar terrain and soak in the awesomeness of its scale and scope. The art also magnifies humanity’s insignificance, as Adley is dwarfed by the majesty around her, so when she encounters the inhabitants of this world, their grandiose designs make sense and also serve to humble any self-aggrandizement a human might feel about their place in the universe. It’s a good story, certainly, but the art makes it feel more mythic and powerful, which is always a good thing.

As I noted, I have no idea if Blake will be able to do this book for as long as he’d like. Perhaps he only has one more arc to go, perhaps he has several. It would be neat to see him complete it, because it’s kind of rare to get science fiction like this in comics. Anywhere, really, but specifically in comics.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


The Man From Maybe by Jordan Thomas (writer), Shaky Kane (artist), Jim Campbell (letterer), Zack Soto (editor), and Karl Bollers (editor). $17.99, 88 pgs, Oni Press.

You buy Shaky Kane comics for the Shaky Kane art and you hope the story holds up, and generally, it does, although usually his art is in service to a story that doesn’t quite deserve it. I mentioned this back in February when I read Weird Work, which is also by the creative team – Thomas isn’t a bad writer, but both of these comics tell a very simple story and Thomas doesn’t do much with it except get out of Kane’s way, which is certainly not the worst thing in the world for a writer to do. This comic takes place in a standard post-apocalyptic world, and aliens land on Earth to track down a crashed vessel carrying a “monolith”-looking thing, and things go pear-shaped pretty quickly. Meanwhile, in the wasteland, two cowboys set out to accompany a wagon train, and one of the aliens shows up, and soon there are only two survivors – our titular hero and the daughter of one of the travelers, and they want to get whoever did it. Meanwhile, a weird rich dude knows about the crashed ship and he has an inkling about what’s aboard, so he’s after it, too. It’s all very familiar, of course, but Thomas doesn’t do anything too stupid with the story, and, as I noted, he lets Kane have fun, which is nice. We get lizard aliens, mutated bad guys, a horrifying hate creature, and weird contraptions for people to drive around in. The rich dude has a creepy, blank expression and a head slightly too big for his body – he looks like what Kirby would draw if Kirby was mad at the world. Kane’s compositions, which feel wrong and occasionally lack perspective, are what makes his art so interesting, because while it feels wrong, it still works, which is a nifty trick. This is, as usual, just a fun book to look at, as Kane lets his imagination run loose and Thomas gives him a basic story to hang it all on. Whether that’s enough for you … well, that’s up to you, isn’t it?

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Just hose that right off, it’ll be good

The Nasty by John Lees (writer), Adam Cahoon (artist), George Kambadias (artist), Kurt Michael Russell (colorist), and Jim Campbell (letterer). $19.99, 180 pgs, Vault Comics.

John Lees is one of the best horror writers out there right now, plus he’s a swell guy, so I was keen to read this book, in which a socially awkward dude gets an imaginary friend when he’s a young boy – a masked killer in the “Labor Day” franchise of movies – and he still talks to the dude – called Red Ennis – years later, when he’s 18 and just out of high school. Our hero – Thumper (so called because he taps his foot constantly, which implies he really should be on ADHD medication) – hangs out with other nerds at a video store (the comic is set in 1994) which provides them a cool place to hang out and watch horror movies, but of course the store is in financial trouble and they’re trying to figure out what to do. The owner of the store manages to get the biggest horror convention in the UK to come to their small Scottish town, and she finds a copy of the most notorious horror movie in existence – one that only the censors have ever seen, because they put the clamps down on it right quick. This will make the convention the place to be, and save the store! Except … when they begin to watch it, the videotape gets partly eaten, and it’s clear the video is cursed anyway (not clear to our characters, but to us). With the movie ruined, Thumper says they can make their own version of the movie, as no one has ever seen it, and pass it off as the original, because they know so much about horror and their gang is, of course, very creative. Plus, he happened to notice that Red Ennis is no longer quite so imaginary, so he can be the villain in the movie …

Of course, this has the potential to all go horribly wrong, as several characters note in the comic itself. When the camera is rolling, Red Ennis can inflict horrific damage to people, but once it’s off, everything resets. Of course, the cursed videotape not only brings Ennis to life, it slowly allows him to inflict real damage when the camera is off … which, I mean, anyone could have predicted. Thumper, however, doesn’t seem to care, as he becomes more and more obsessed with finishing the movie. Things get bad, but Lees is too good of a writer to allow this to become a standard horror story. First of all, it’s not really a horror story in the traditional sense. By setting it in 1994, he can dispense with cell phones, of course, but he can also tap into the “scare” of the 1980s, when “concerned parents” all over realized their kids were watching evil movies and listening to evil music and decided to do something about it. Lees uses the (sadly, very real) Video Recordings Act of 1984 as a jumping-off point and introduces the real villain of the story, an uptight lady named Cynthia Crudgill (which sounds like something right out Dickens, it’s so English and villainous) who wants to destroy all horror movies. When she finds out about the convention, she heads to Scotland to put a stop to it. Meanwhile, Thumper’s friends have to figure out how to get him to stop being so obsessive, and if they can save their movie. It’s handled really well by Lees, as he makes sure that Crudgill is not only somewhat ridiculous but also too true-to-life, that the people she’s attacking are far more reasonable than she is, that she can’t handle actual facts that dispute her arguments, and that perhaps the censoring board is made up a bunch of hypocrites, as they’re allowed to see these movies but others aren’t (Crudgill makes that point herself in a condescending fashion). Meanwhile, Thumper has to realize why he’s making this movie and why Ennis means so much to him. Ennis, of course, becomes a symbol of a lot of things, from Thumper’s lost childhood to Crudgill’s campaign (he has a great name – if you squint, his name backwards spells “sinner,” which I very much hope was deliberate by Lees). Ultimately, this is a comic about doing something you love and not worrying about whether it’s cool – Thumper and his friends are making a horror movie, after all, whether they mean it to mimic another one or not – and about figuring out what you’re doing in life. Wait, it’s a coming-of-age story? Damn it, Lees, I hate coming-of-age stories!!!! I’ve been suckered!!!!!

I do wish the art was a bit better on the book, although it’s certainly not bad. Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed that Kambadias didn’t draw the whole thing. He does the first two issues, and his art is a bit rougher and slightly more “realistic” than Cahoon’s, which works better for the book. His Crudgill, for instance, looks formidable, while Cahoon’s version is a bit more of a cartoon, losing a bit of her power thusly. Still, Cahoon does a pretty good job, and his approximation of the ratty horror movie the kids are making is very keen. The art isn’t the best part of the book, but it’s not a detriment, either.

This is one of the better books you’ll read this year, I think – certainly so far this year! Lees has done some very cool comics since he started in the field, and this easily takes its place alongside them.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:


Newburn volume 2 by Chip Zdarsky (writer), Jacob Phillips (artist), and Allison O’Toole (editor). $16.99, 142 pgs, Image.

The conclusion of Newburn works pretty well, as all the chickens are coming home to roost and our hero needs to figure out how to get out from under it all. In his effort to protect his protégé from a murder rap, he manipulated some things, but the gangsters he works for aren’t quite satisfied with the results, and that spells trouble. This is a good comic, as Zdarsky does a nice job with the pacing and the reveals, and Phillips is not quite at the level of his old man yet, but he’s getting there. The biggest problem I have with this book is the same problem I have with a lot of fiction like this: it’s too predictable. I mean, yes, I read a lot of fiction, so not a lot of things surprise me, but it still annoys me a bit. So Newburn is in a pickle, and he needs to figure out a way out of it. Meanwhile, his employee, Emily, gets a visit from an old boyfriend with whom she used to thieve, and he tries to get her to help him with a problem. Newburn thinks it’s a bad idea, but she does it anyway, and that really messes things up. So we’re supposed to believe that Newburn, who is clearly not a bad guy (despite something else I’ll get to), is setting Emily up to take a fall and then uses her to get away from what’s coming for him? I just don’t buy it, but it seems Zdarsky wants us to believe it even though he has to know most readers won’t. I dunno – it robbed the book of some tension, because I just kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Meanwhile, in the “ok-maybe-he’s-a-bad-guy” category, we get an “origin story” for our hero, which is pretty good, except he does something horrible in the issue that is, I guess, supposed to make us believe he would be this evil in the present but also feels ridiculous, as if he was able to do what he did he’s be Superman. An evil Superman, sure, but still.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. It moves along nicely, and Zdarsky does know how to construct a comic so that you want to keep turning pages. But it did feel the tiniest paint-by-numbers, which is too bad.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Probably not the best thing to say to Newburn, but you do you, guy!

No’Madd the Unconquerable volume 2: The Cave of Broken Tombs by Andrew Kafoury (writer), Aaron McConnell (artist), Lee Moyer (colorist), and Tom Orzechowski (letterer). $14.99, 160 pgs, Battle Quest Comics.

As I have mentioned before, I’m going to get Battle Quest Comics until they’re too big a company for me to keep up, because Kafoury is a swell dude and he’s been building this company for years and I want to see it succeed. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the comic are pretty darned good, but I’m inclined to support them anyway. Moving on, in this second volume of Kafoury’s weird sword-and-sorcery science-fiction epic, we check in with No’Madd’s son, who was left back in his village when he went off in volume 1. The son, Taron, grows up and becomes a pretty good warrior in his own right, and he falls in love with a woman who’s also pretty good in the fight. When No’Madd returns, he tells his son that it’s his destiny to help him fight the bad guys from volume 1. They head back to where No’Madd fought them the first time and meet a sorceress who says she can help them in their quest. So they’re off on a quest! Things go sideways, of course, and Taron and No’Madd are separated … but I don’t want to say much more about that, because that would be spoiling things. I mean, it’s not the most intricately plotted comic in the world, but it still has some nice twists and turns as we move through the plot.

Kafoury does some nice things with the story, which is a bit more thoughtful than you might expect. He puts his characters through tough times, sure, but he makes sure they’re always striving to do better and they don’t become cynical, which makes the moments where they show a bit of grace hit nicely, as it makes them more humanistic. They fight a lot, sure, but there are nice moments when they can choose not to fight, and Kafoury does a good job making sure it feels like something their characters would do, rather than just something he tacked on. While the alien invaders remain a bit mysterious, the other characters No’Madd and Taron meet along the way are more complex and interesting, and it’s neat that Kafoury is able to make them both sinister and kindly at the same time, so we remain unsure who’s a villain and who’s an ally. It’s a neat trick.

McConnell does a solid job on the art – I don’t love it, but it’s certainly not bad at all, it’s just a bit to angular for the action scenes to work perfectly. He does, however, do a nice job with the world-building, as No’Madd’s world just looks hostile, and McConnell designs some cool and fierce animals to menace our heroes. Toward the end, there’s a very cool sequence where McConnell and Moyer get to show off a little, and they really do a wonderful job with both the storytelling and the coloring. It’s a decent-looking book, and while I don’t love McConnell’s style, his overall storytelling is solid, and that’s a good thing.

If you’re interested in sword-and-sorcery with some science fiction thrown in, you should check this book out. It’s a neat adventure story with a nice heart, and I hope we’ll see more of it (No’Madd’s story is certainly not done, so I assume Kafoury has more plans for him). Give it a look!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

No’Madd does NOT fuck around!

Rom: The Original Marvel Years volume 1 omnibus by Bill Mantlo (writer), Sal Buscema (penciler), and a whole bunch of other folks inkin’ and colorin’ and letterin’. $125.00, 699 pgs, Marvel.

It’s kind of impressive that Mantlo manages to write 29 issues (at least, given what might happen in future volumes that I haven’t read yet) with basically the same-ish plot: Rom is looking for Dire Wraiths so he can zap them into limbo. Now, not all the issues are specifically about the Wraiths, of course, but they’re always the motivating factor – when Rom fights the so-called “Missing Link” in issue #29, for instance, he’s only in the area to check on weird radiation that he thinks might be Wraith-related. It’s not surprising, necessarily, that this is all Wraith-related, because that’s Rom’s mission, but it’s still kind of neat that Mantlo is able to keep it going for so long without it becoming too stale (it does get a bit annoying, but not too much). He does a nice job with the way the people of Earth – and Clairton, West Virginia, which is Rom’s “home base” – react to Rom (oddly, given that they live in the Marvel Universe, but I guess people are still freaked out by space-faring, armor-clad robotic-looking dudes even if they know the Fantastic Four exist), and the way Rom and the Clairtoners become friends is the best part of the book. More importantly, it takes a while and it doesn’t happen en masse, as some people begin to trust him and then others, and it’s nice and organic, and I’m only bringing it up because there’s no way Marvel or DC would allow someone to write something like this today, when everything has to be geared toward the BIG PLOT. I mean, Mantlo isn’t the greatest writer, of course, and Rom is just a comic based on a toy, but back in the day (1979-1982, when these comics were published), comics were just a bit longer, and more importantly, there were more panels per page. Modern comics have advantages over older ones, to be sure, and the feeling of expansion of the artwork is one of them – I mean, we’ve all seen the 1950s comics where narration boxes take up half the small panel, leaving no room for Wally Wood to dazzle us with his pencil work – but at the same time, the excessive verbiage in these panels mean that Mantlo can give us a lot of information and he can build up the characters better. Steve Jackson, the boyfriend of Brandy Clark (the first person Rom meets on Earth, who of course trusts him and falls for him, as he does for her, but theirs is a doomed love!!!), is an interesting character – hot-headed and ready to fight Rom early on, then softening as he realizes he’s a good dude, then jealous because Brandy digs Rom so much, then mature enough to handle it even though it never goes away – he’s a three-dimensional person, mainly because Mantlo spends a good deal of time with him and his internal narration. As heavy-handed as it can be, back then, even ancillary characters like Steve could become deeper and well rounded, while today, it seems a lot harder for writers to do that on superhero and superhero-adjacent books, because of the demands of PLOT CHURN. It’s one thing I do miss from older comics.

Buscema, meanwhile, is a work horse, drawing all 29 issues in this collection (he also inked most of the first 20 issues, so it’s not like he had a ton of help there), and while I’ve never been the hugest fan of Buscema, it’s nice that the book has a consistently solid look to it. Buscema is workmanlike, to be sure, but he knows what he’s doing, and his storytelling is always good. These comics came out monthly, and it’s shocking to think that in today’s world, there’d be a good 5-10 different artists working on these 29 issues, because no one could keep up. Be like Buscema, artists!!!! (Of course, John Romita’s Wraiths in the X-Men issues look much better than Buscema’s, but that’s not important right now!)

I enjoyed these. They’re not going to change the world or anything, but they’re fun comics. This is a bit spendy, I get that, but that’s a nice chunk of old-school comics for your buck.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Even houses in the Marvel Universe hate Rom!

The Savage Sword of Conan #2 by Jim Zub (writer, Conan story), Richard Pace (artist, Conan story), Patrick Zircher (writer/artist, Solomon Kane story), Richard Starkings (letterer), Tyler Smith (letterer, Conan story), and Jimmy Betancourt (letterer, Solomon Kane story). $6.99, 61 pgs, Titan Comics.

I’m still not sure if I’m going to keep getting this, but I do like the package, and Zircher’s Solomon Kane story, which as of right now is the continuing one, is interesting – in this issue, Kane sees what could be an ancient Celtic god, but maybe it’s just his overactive imagination? It’s beautifully drawn and despite its short length, Zircher is doing a good job building the suspense. Meanwhile, Zub and Pace’s main story takes up the bulk of the issue, and unlike last issue, where I had a bit of an issue with due to some of the more computer-generated graphics, Pace’s rough style is (it appears) all his, and it fits the brutal nature of Zub’s story, in which weird humanoid creatures attack a caravan that Conan happened to be traveling with and kill everyone except our favorite barbarian, who is buried alive as part of some religious ceremony the creatures have. He crawls his way out and befriends a young boy who has a connection with the creatures, and of course, nothing goes right for anyone in the end except Conan, because he has to survive to have more adventures. It’s nicely done by Zub, showing Conan’s indomitable will, his strength to survive, his fighting skills, and his acceptance of those who aren’t douchebags (Conan has no patience for douchebags). Pace uses a lot of heavy lines and chunky blacks to give us an eerie, disturbing world, and he does really nice work with some of the sequences – Conan digging himself out of the grave is powerfully drawn; we get a double-page spread of the creatures attacking the camp which is absolutely horrifying; Conan’s confrontation with the wolves while he’s recovering is masterful; the Big Bad at the end is excellently terrifying. Pace probably wouldn’t be as good on some of Conan’s adventures in some more refined places of his world, but out in the wild, he does very nice work.

Once again, I’m taking this on an issue-by-issue basis, although I am curious about Zircher’s story, so I will definitely get the next issue, in which his story concludes. But if they keep getting good creators to hit us with good standalone Conan stories, that’s all right with me!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

I suspect I know which one of these two will survive

Still by Eli Powell (writer/artist) and Micah Myers (letterer). $7.99, 78 pgs, Invader Comics.

I’m a fan of Powell, so I was intrigued by this comic, in which an old man lives in the woods. It’s decent enough, with an unfortunate ending that I don’t want to spoil, but I’ll get to it soon enough. Anyway, Powell gives us an old man living in the woods, hunting for his food, and generally being haunted. His wife and child are dead, buried on his land, and he seemingly is just waiting to die. He is haunted, not by his family, but by strange visions, and one night he sees forms in the forest so he heads out to confront them. Yeah, not the best idea in the world. While he’s out there, he has an epiphany. The end. There really isn’t that much more to it, and in stories like this, the epiphany really has to land, but in this case, it doesn’t. Powell hasn’t done enough with the man to make it feel important – we don’t know enough about him, so his moment of truth is unclear, as we’re not sure if it’s earned or deserved. We can infer things from it, of course, but not enough to make it powerful. It’s frustrating – I like stories like this, so I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, and Powell does a good job with the atmospheric setting … but perhaps it’s a bit too atmospheric and not concrete enough. He’s a good artist, so his rough line work makes everything seem gritty and grounded, which helps when he gets to the “ghosts,” as he uses gouache effects to make the visions more ethereal, and the effect is, frankly, beautiful, especially as the man becomes more and more frenzied in the “real” world. As it’s winter, Powell uses the white spaces on the page very well, creating a lonely and isolated place that slowly begins to close in on the man. It’s a harshly gorgeous comic, and the art carries a lot of it, until we reach the end, which is also beautiful but can’t quite make up for the hole in the narrative. It’s tough – as I noted, I like Powell’s work, I like stories like this, and I want to like this more than I do … but I don’t. Still, it’s an interesting comic, and heck, you might dig it more than I do!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Maybe they like to play with their food?

Syphon volume 2 by Mohsen Ashraf (writer), Arish Akanda (writer), Thomas Hedglen (penciler), Mostafa Moussa (inker), Jagdish Kumar (inker), John Kalisz (colorist), Nanjan Jamberi (colorist), Troy Peteri (letterer), Elena Salcedo (editor), and Matt Hawkins (editor). $16.99, 93 pgs, Image/Top Cow.

I liked the first volume of Syphon well enough, and this one is fine, but I think I’m done with it. It’s not a bad comic, it just doesn’t really grab me, and I don’t really want to spend more money on it. Our hero, Sylas, wields a power that allows him to siphon off pain from people, and he’s trying not to abuse it, which is nice. Meanwhile, there’s something weird going on in the Amazon, and eventually Sylas has to get involved, as the weirdness has something to do with his power. His girlfriend, Livia, is treating a patient who doesn’t feel anything, which also seems to tie into Sylas’s power. Anyway, it’s fine – I appreciate that Ashraf and Akanda don’t make this just a bland superhero epic, as Sylas and his allies do try to figure out a way to stop the bad guy without punching him (although there’s a lot of action in the story nevertheless), but it’s just not terribly inspired. I don’t know – it’s just missing that spark that makes the better books really shine. It feels a bit by-the-numbers, right to the “surprise” ending of the book, which isn’t all that surprising. Hedglen’s nice, fluid, cartoony art is fine, and the bright colors pop nicely. I feel like I should mention Peteri’s letters, because I’ve just never liked Peteri’s lettering, and as I was reading this, I actually thought, “This is Troy Peteri, isn’t it?” and I was right. Peteri’s letters always feel too tall and thin and close together, and it really does make the reading experience a bit less pleasant (I mentioned Peteri’s letters in my review of Full Tilt, because in that comic, they actually did not annoy me). So that might have a little bit to do with my not loving this comic, however tiny. Yes, you know you’ve read too many comics when the lettering affects your enjoyment of a book!

As usual, I’m bummed I don’t like this more. It’s serviceable, and there’s nothing really wrong with it, but it just doesn’t do it for me. Oh well.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You tell ‘im!

Weaver Omnibus by Andy Diggle (writer), Eddie Robson (writer), Aaron Campbell (artist), Willam Crabtree (colorist), Salvatore Aiala Studios (colorist), Simon Bowland (letterer), and Ivan Cohen (collection editor). $34.99, 263 pgs, Dynamite.

Someone recently wondered why I’m so down on Dynamite these days (sorry, I can’t find the post!), and I noted that they’re just licensing comics out the wazoo, with a ridiculous emphasis on Red Sonja and Vampirella, and it’s a bit depressing because they weren’t always like that. Yes, they’ve always been about the licensing, but they did do some interesting comics, and this book, which first appeared in 2013 (under the name “Uncanny,” which was just asking for trouble, it seems), was one of them. It’s a creator-owned thing that does its own thing, and Dynamite just doesn’t seem to do that anymore. Is this a great comic? Not at all – it’s not even that good, to be honest. Diggle certainly knows how to tell a story, but he uses every single goddamned cliché of the action-adventure-superhero-adjacent genre, and while the book is entertaining in the moment, it’s instantly forgettable, unfortunately. Campbell’s solid, gritty art is quite good, which helps make the story more palatable, but my point isn’t that this is great literature – it’s that Dynamite doesn’t seem to do anything like this anymore. I get that licensed stuff is probably more profitable, and that’s fine. It’s just depressing that another outlet for original work (well, “original,” as Diggle cribs from a lot of places) doesn’t seem to be available anymore. Oh well.

Anyway, this book is fine. A dude named Weaver has a weird power that allows him to absorb the abilities/knowledge of people for a short time after he touches them (like absolutely no one in the X-Men, of course), and he uses it to be a small-time hustler. People who want to use his power come after him, another person with a different power rescues him, and he’s thrown into a war between two sides who want to use these powers nefariously. You know the drill! It’s, again, fine, but it’s a bit of a bummer that Diggle just plugs in his cliché-o-meter and sits back and lets this thing write itself. Diggle isn’t the greatest writer in the world, but it seems like he could do better than this. I enjoyed reading it, it zipped along nicely, and then it was over. Oh well.

Dynamite chose one of the dumbest pull quotes to put on the front cover of this comic: “You won’t be disappointed.” Boy, talk about damning with faint praise, eh? I guess you won’t be disappointed, if you read this with zero expectations and you just want something to occupy yourself for a while. Couldn’t they have found a better pull quote? Maybe they couldn’t!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

You are NOT going to like the answer to that question!

World’s Finest: Teen Titans by Mark Waid (writer), Emanuela Lupacchino (artist), Mike Norton (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist), Steve Wands (letterer), and Brittany Holzherr (collection editor). $24.99, 120 pgs, DC.

On the one hand, this comic is right in Mark Waid’s wheelhouse, and he knocks it out cleanly (out of the park, possibly, depending on your mood). The Titans fight a bad guy and his dark version of their own team, but at the crucial moment, they can’t trust each other because of a lot of small things that have been nagging at them, but the big reason is they don’t know anything about their leader, Robin. So Dick decides to reveal his secret identity to them, they all believe in the mission again, and they kick butt. It’s a sturdy, well-constructed superhero comic, with plenty of space for character development, as when Wally invites Roy and Garth to hang out with him at his home in East Bumfuckville, Nebraska (ok, Blue Valley) for the weekend or when Karen goes on a quasi-date with Mal Duncan. Plus, Lupacchino draws this (with an inexplicable 10 pages drawn by Norton in issue #6), and Lupacchino is absolutely superb, so the book looks amazing. (I say “inexplicable” only because I assume Lupacchino was getting behind, but DC didn’t want to delay the final issue, even though she couldn’t have been that far behind because it’s only 10 pages, and Norton is a perfectly good artist and this isn’t shade at all, but it’s just weird that they couldn’t delay the book just a bit.)

On the other hand … man, I think too much about comics, don’t I? This is a “fresh” origin of the Teen Titans, which of course, means that I have far too many questions that DC doesn’t care about and will never get answered. First of all, DC has, it seems, completely abandoned any sense of recent history – I know we still get books set during World War II, because the Justice Society is so closely linked to that war, but for anything more recent, there’s just no sense of it. Dick Grayson is Robin in this comic, but it still feels like it’s taking place right now. I mean, how old is Dick supposed to be these days? Twenty-five? I guess if I squint, I could believe this takes place 10 years ago, but it just doesn’t feel like it. It’s a minor thing, but still a thing. At least for me. Then, it’s supposed to be an “origin,” to a degree, but it doesn’t feel like one, as the team has already been around a while, long enough to reject a prospective member and have him turn evil. I certainly don’t want an origin, because FSM knows we don’t need one, but it’s still a bit odd. And then there’s Bumblebee. Waid didn’t invent Bumblebee – she’s been around since 1976 – and she’s fine here, but it feels off, because it feels like DC is trying too hard to be diverse. What makes Bumblebee so special that she gets elevated to “founding member of the Titans” status? Is it because she’s black? If so, that’s a terrible reason. She does feel a bit shoehorned in, and what’s weirder is that even in the context of the book itself, she feels like she doesn’t really belong. She doesn’t have a stern mentor like Dick who connects her to the rest of the DCU. She doesn’t come from a mythical tradition like Donna and Garth. She doesn’t really hang out with the other team members, like Donna and Garth do or like Wally, Roy, and Garth do. She goes on dates with Mal Duncan, but he’s not on the team either. It feels like there’s an interesting story lurking around the edges of this book, of a “founder” of the Titans who doesn’t really fit in, but Waid (perhaps under duress; blink twice if you need someone to rescue you, Mark!) and/or DC (who just wants things to get punched) don’t want to go down that road. And I can’t blame them, certainly – this is a superhero book, after all – but Karen doesn’t quite feel right in this book, and it would have been more interesting if Waid had explored that. Or maybe it’s just me. I’m often out of my league on these things.

Anyway, solid superhero book, excellent art – it’s a perfectly cromulent modern comic book. It doesn’t quite thrill me, but that’s a “me” problem, I suppose.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

One totally Airwolf panel:

Really? ‘Nothing’? Racism? Sexism? Homophobia? Donald Trump? The inexplicable annual Dallas Cowboys hype? ‘Nothing’?


The Devil’s Broker: Seeking Gold, God, and Glory in Fourteenth-Century Italy by Frances Stonor Saunders. 396 pgs, 2004, HarperCollins.

If you’ve read any medieval history books, you probably encountered Sir John Hawkwood, who was an Englishman living in Italy during the later 1300s. The reason you come across him is because 14th-century Italy is emblematic of what Barbara Tuchman called the “tumultuous” century, and so whenever historians delve into the so-called “Babylonian Captivity” of the Papacy (the popes lived in Avignon for much of the 1300s, for reasons that are fascinating but which you don’t care about right now), they have to mention Hawkwood, because he was so involved in the wars of the Papacy in the 1370s, when the popes were trying to re-establish themselves in Rome. So Hawkwood is a footnote in many larger medieval histories, but this is the first time I’ve seen a book that focuses on him, because he’s an interesting dude in his own right. Hawkwood was born about 1320 in Essex and died in Italy on 18 March 1394, and he was soldiering almost up until his death, as he seems like the kind of fellow who simply cannot sit still for long. He fought for Edward III in France during the Hundred Years’ War, but after a truce was declared in the late 1350s, he made his way to Italy and became a mercenary, as Italy was the place to be if you were a mercenary in the 1300s. The Italians, hopelessly divided into city-states in the North, the Papal States in the center, and the decadent Kingdom of Naples in the south, didn’t really like fighting their own battles, and in the three decades Hawkwood spent in the peninsula, he was offering his services to anyone who would pay, switching sides so often it makes the reader dizzy. Saunders does a noble job keeping track of who was fighting whom, as she delves more deeply into 14th-century Italian politics than is probably healthy. Basically, everyone hated the popes, who had left Rome for Avignon at the beginning of the century, but in the 1370s, there was pressure to return, even though the political cauldron of Italy could easily swallow the weak-willed alive. Eventually, of course, the pope did return, but dissident Avignonese cardinals elected their own pope, so until 1415 there were two (and sometimes three!) popes, and the institution was as poorly perceived as it probably ever would be, even more so than in the early years of the Reformation. Hawkwood managed to gain command of a large army of mercenaries and he gained a lot of loot and influence for himself and his men during his time in Italy, and he was even legitimized by marrying into the ruling family of Milan, the most powerful city in the north during those years. Saunders, frankly, doesn’t focus enough on Hawkwood, probably because he didn’t leave behind a lot of writing and other such evidence of the inner man, so while she’s able to track what he did during those years, the book is much more about the insane political situation in Italy and how an Englishman like Hawkwood – who remained loyal, it seems, to both Edward III and later Richard II – could help the English get more influence in the region over the French, who were, perhaps not surprisingly, the dominant foreign force in the area. It is, frankly, a mess. But Saunders looks at not only the politics and religion, but social issues of the day, from the plague destroying society and making individuals a bit more able to negotiate on their own terms because there were, you know, fewer of them (Hawkwood seems like an extremely deft negotiator) to the nascent Renaissance making Florentines reluctant to engage in warfare on their own, as they were too busy thinking about shit. She gets into the economics of hiring mercenaries and what it meant for the cities, and she untangles the complex familial ties that always complicated things in the medieval days. It really is a fascinating book, despite the annoying and ultimately pointless web of fighting that the Italians engaged in for decades. If you ever happened to be reading a medieval history book and you came across Hawkwood’s name and thought, “I wonder what was up with that dude?” (as I know you did!), well, this is the book for you!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wild Romance: A Victorian Story of a Marriage, a Trial, and a Self-Made Woman by Chloë Schama. 249 pgs, 2010, Walker Publishing Company, Inc.

Nepo-babies don’t just exist in the world of celebrity entertainment, as Schama’s dad is Simon Schama, an extremely successful and famous historian/television host. I wonder if that helped open some doors for his daughter????

This is an interesting book – Schama writes in the foreword that she was working on her senior thesis and her topic – “sensation novels” of the Victorian era – was bothering her because the novels were so terrible. In the course of her research, she came across a Wilkie Collins novel inspired by a real-life event – the trial of a woman who accused her husband of abandoning her. Maria Theresa Yelverton – who went by her middle name – had sued her alleged husband, William Charles Yelverton, claiming he was a bigamist who had abandoned her to marry someone else. Yelverton countered with the claim that they were never married, and the trial was a big event back in 1861. Schama read the transcripts and the letters the two had sent to each other – which were entered into evidence – and decided to write about the trial and the weird romance that preceded it. Eventually, it turned into a biography of Theresa more than anything, as she was a fascinating figure in late-Victorian society.

Schama writes this like a standard biography, beginning with the inciting event – the meeting between the two on a ferry from Boulogne to Dover – and then going back to fill in some details about their lives before moving forward. They met in August 1852, when Theresa was 19 and Yelverton was 28. She was the daughter of a successful manufacturer, he was the son of a minor Irish peer, and not even the oldest son, and he was a member of the Royal Artillery. They spoke on the ferry, and several months later Theresa began writing him. He wrote back (perhaps foolishly), and she fell in love with him. Theresa showed an independent streak even this early in life, and she ended up in Istanbul while he was stationed in the Crimea during the war, as she followed him to try to meet up with him again. Over the course of a few years, they met occasionally, until in 1857, they allegedly married in Edinburgh. Under Scottish law, a man and a woman could simply say they were married and they were, which is what supposedly happened. Later that year, they were married in Dublin, but the only witness was the priest who married them, and Yelverton didn’t admit to being Catholic, which meant the priest shouldn’t have performed the ceremony. About a year later, Yelverton married someone else, and Theresa sued him for bigamy. Under the marriage laws of the time, it was easier to sue him for abandonment than bigamy, so she did that, and although she won the initial court case in Dublin in 1861, in 1867 the House of Lords, in a final appeal, ruled for Yelverton. Theresa decided to leave England and become a world traveler, and eventually she died in South Africa in 1881, at only 48 years old. Yelverton only outlived her by less than two years.

The case is interesting, as Schama notes, because the marriage laws in the United Kingdom were such a mess. She goes over them fairly well and shows how Theresa, who, after all, wanted to be married, became kind of a reluctant activist for women’s rights, because the laws clearly didn’t work for her. Theresa comes off in the book better than Yelverton does, of course, but Schama doesn’t hide the fact that she wasn’t quite a paragon of anything, really – she was, sadly, as casually racist as most Victorians, and she refused to ally herself with other women’s rights activists of the day. Her letters are fascinating, as she’s a fairly good writer – she published two novels in her life – and her life after she left England is fascinating, too, as she spent some years in San Francisco and Yosemite Park, Hong Kong, and then South Africa. She was friends with John Muir, and she ended up in South Africa because she followed the ex-empress of France, Eugénie, to the country when the empress visited the site of her son’s death (he was killed during the Zulu War of 1879). Despite not wanting to align herself with women fighting for more rights, simply by living a life without constraints, she showed that women were capable of anything that men were, and Schama does a nice job not pushing that too much, simply letting Theresa’s life speak for itself.

This is a nice, quick read that nevertheless touches on a lot of social ills of the time period. The marriage laws of the UK were wonky, and despite Theresa’s somewhat prickly personality that comes through a bit in the pages, she was treated poorly by men, beginning with Yelverton (who seems to be only marginally interested in a relationship with Theresa, so one wonders why he strung her along for so long and clearly consented to some kind of ceremony, even if he claimed it wasn’t a marriage). Schama does a good job letting the characters speak for themselves, quoting the letters copiously and tracking down Theresa’s writings from her travels, which are very vivid. This is a neat book about a Victorian societal issue that doesn’t get quite enough press, so that’s kind of keen.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆

London 1900: The Imperial Metropolis by Jonathan Schneer. 336 pgs, 2001, Yale University Press.

Schneer takes a look at London at, perhaps, the apex of empire, just before the 20th century overtook it and the empire became anachronistic, and it’s an interesting cultural history. He claims that the psychology of empire has not been studied, and so he splits the book into two parts: in the first, he examines how the citizens of London buttressed the empire, while in the second section, he looks at how citizens criticized it. He looks at how the propaganda of the government and the capitalists helped bring the working class onto their side, which was crucial to maintain the empire, as the working class, naturally, suffered more than the upper classes, as they do. In 1900, the Boer War was still raging, but it was also clear that Britain was going to win, so the government used the war at almost a litmus test to see who were “true Britons,” as if you opposed the war, you were obviously traitorous dogs or, worse yet, Dutch (shudder). Schneer takes a look at the dock workers, who were almost closest to the implications of empire, as they unloaded the exotic goods from around the world that they would never be able to afford, yet a vast majority of them were solidly on the side of “empire.” He pushes the imperialistic angle just a bit much, I felt, especially when discussing the architecture of the city, but most of his observations feel pretty spot on, especially when he considers the popular culture of fin de siècle London, as he looks at some of the exhibitions in London and even the zoo, which reinforced the notion of empire. The second section is a bit more interesting, because he gets into those who were opposed to the empire, but in many different and occasionally contradictory ways. Women, the Irish, the Indians, and Africans all had reasons to decry imperialism, and Schneer does a nice job with these marginalized groups. What is fascinating, however, is that so many people who did not benefit from imperialism were less “anti-empire” and more “make the empire better” – some ideas that we might take for granted, like independence for India or the tribes of western Africa never entered their minds. Many groups of minorities simply wanted the white rulers to be better at their jobs, which highlights an unfortunate reminder about people of the past: they were products of their time. The white women who had no real power in London, just whatever they could subtly use where they could get it, were often horribly racist. The Indians and Africans weren’t terribly better, either, as everyone, it seems, was anti-Semitic. Schneer doesn’t shy away from these prejudices, and it’s a more interesting book because of it. These people were living at a time when things like anti-Semitism and colonialism were far more acceptable, and it’s interesting reading about how they worked within that framework. Some, obviously, are a bit more admirable than others.

As you might recall, I’m a fan of this time period – “the long nineteenth century,” to use a common phrase (which some historians have used to talk about the period of 1789-1914) – and it’s interesting reading a cultural history of a city, because London was so important in the world in 1900. If Schneer sometimes seems like he’s making connections that don’t exist, he also digs deep into what made Britons tick at a time when they ruled the world, and that’s pretty cool.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆


Ms Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries seasons 1 and 2 (Acorn TV/Sundance). This is a spin-off/sequel of another show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, which was set in the 1920s – this show is set in the 1960s (1964, to be precise), so it’s not exactly “modern,” but it’s still a fun conceit. The niece of the original Miss Fisher, Peregrine (played by the adorable Geraldine Hakewell), inherits her house when Miss Fisher goes missing in Papua New Guinea (leaving open the possibility of her return, of course). Peregrine is a bit of a wild woman, living out in the boondocks (Hakewell is 36, but it seems like Peregrine is at least a decade younger than that), and she doesn’t even know she had an aunt (her mother has recently died), so she moves to Melbourne and meets some of her aunt’s friends, who hang out at a place called the Adventuresses’ Club, which is filled with extraordinary women. Peregrine discovers that she has a talent for crime-solving, just like her aunt, so she becomes a private investigator. Throw in a handsome cop who helps her out, and we’re off!

This is a fun show with just enough seriousness to make it intriguing. The women in the show, of course, are not treated as equal by the men, as even Handsome Cop James Steed (played by Joel Jackson) doesn’t quite take Peregrine seriously, even though he knows she’s a clever investigator. They become an item, of course, and in the second season, he begins to make noise about building a new house and having kids, all without talking to her about it, because, as a woman, she’s just expected to give up whatever she’s doing even if she likes it and is good at it. Meanwhile, a lot of the cases involve women being wronged in some way, which allows the members of the Club to get involved. In a cost-cutting measure, the only regular members of the club we see after the pilot episode are Catherine McClements, playing Peregrine’s aunt’s best friend, and Louisa Mignone, who’s a superb chemist. They and Toby Truslove, playing McClements’s brother, are always helping Peregrine out, and Truslove and Mignone begin a romance, which also has social implications to it (he’s not religious, while she’s Catholic … and divorced). Meanwhile, Steed’s boss is notoriously corrupt, which is a plot point in the first season that goes away a bit in the second (for a good reason, but it’s still a bit annoying). Anyway, the cases are fun, and the chemistry between Hakewell and Jackson works nicely, which is important in these kinds of shows. It’s a bit annoying that we don’t see more of Melbourne, where it was filmed, but if you’re going to pretend this is the 1960s, it would be hard to show too much, as Melbourne has changed a lot since then. The style is very much on point, though, and the show looks great. I don’t know if we’re getting any more of it – season 2 aired in 2021, and it’s not like it ends on a cliffhanger or anything, so it could be a stopping point, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it!

Tracker season 1 (CBS/Paramount+). CBS is the most “old-school” of the networks (and they appeal to the oldest audience), but they stick to the current formula of network television shows: have a decent-sized regular cast and have them play off each other in a fixed setting, which is why Tracker is such an interesting show, as it doesn’t conform to that template. Sure, there’s a regular cast, but this is Justin Hartley’s show all the way – Robin Weigert and Abby McEnany have very little to do as the two people who find Colter Shaw (such a TV name!) his jobs, and Eric Graise is literally the Guy in the Chair – as he’s out on the road finding missing persons in various locations that all look suspiciously like British Columbia. It’s nice that Weigert and McEnany get a paycheck for doing nothing (I love Weigert and do wish she had more to do), and one episode did focus on Graise, but the only other significant cast member is Fiona Rene, a lawyer who helps Colter out on his searches. She and Colter were once an item, it’s implied, but the show has resisted putting them together, which is nice. Colter gets a back story with a paranoid father who forced his kids (Colter and a brother and sister) to learn how to be survivalists and died under mysterious circumstances, but the show hasn’t explored that all that much (although it does set the groundwork). Basically, this is just Colter wandering from place to place finding people, and it’s perfectly fine. They do a decent job pretending we’re in different parts of the country (for obvious reasons, Colter hasn’t been to the desert yet, but he’s been to “New Hampshire” and “Kentucky” and “St. Louis”), and they get some nice guest stars to either be the people looking for a missing person, the missing person themselves, or a bad guy trying to stop Colter from finding the missing person (Jennifer Morrison played a childhood friend, Lee Tergeson plays Colter’s dad, Jensen Ackles and Melissa Roxburgh play his siblings, and Peter Stormare plays a weird bad guy, which is always fun). Hartley, who’s far too pretty to be 47 (!) years old (and who was once the murderer in an episode of Castle, so good for him!), is calm, cool, and collected all the time, doing his thing and taking no shit. Honestly, the closest old-school analog for this show I can think of is Knight Rider – loner going around helping people, with a small group of aides who don’t show up that often. Sure, Hartley doesn’t have a talking car, but the vibe is the same – he smolders through the role, occasionally there’s a little romance, and he takes care of things and moves on in his Airstream and big ol’ truck. It’s nothing special, but it’s kind of refreshing to see a show that doesn’t follow the normal formula of crime shows these days. And British Columbia is gorgeous, so the scenery is usually nice to look at!

Shogun season 1 (FX/Hulu). This is a good-bordering-on-great show, but it leaves a bit too much meat on the bone, oddly enough. I guess there’s at least one more season in development, so maybe that accounts for the strangeness of the ending, but it still feels too abrupt (it completes the book, I guess, but still feels a bit incomplete). Anyway, despite the weird ending, this is a terrific show, especially with regard to the marvelous Anna Sawai as Mariko and the baroque Tadanobu Asano as Yabushige. Both of those actors have amazing arcs, and both actors do excellent work with them. The other two main characters, Cosmo Jarvis as John Blackthorne (or “low-rent Tom Hardy,” as my wife and I referred to him) and the majestic Hiroyuki Sanada as Toranaga, are also very good, but they seem to have to carry the plot a bit more, so perhaps that’s why they feel a bit less fleshed out? It’s weird. Anyway, this is a gorgeous show, as it uses the British Columbia landscape to wonderful effect and the costuming is superb. It doesn’t romanticize the Japanese, as many shows these days romanticize the non-Western culture the dumb white people come into contact with, but it does show that in some ways, the Japanese were more advanced than the Europeans at the time (early on, Jarvis worries that if he takes too many baths, he’ll get dysentery). They remain wildly sexist and a bit racist, though, which isn’t terribly surprising, and Blackthorne’s clashes with them have to do with his idea of freedom versus theirs, and the show does a good job showing that neither side is completely wrong or right, it’s just a different culture. It’s impressive watching the rituals of everyday life in Japan and how Blackthorne tries to figure them out as he tries to stay alive. We get the Portuguese, who are trying to convert the natives and trade with them, so we get the Catholic-Protestant clash played out in miniature between Blackthorne and the priests, and of course he and Mariko (who knows Portuguese, as does Blackthorne, and is therefore his translator) dig each other but can’t admit to it. Jarvis and Sawai’s relationship is superb, as they give into their desires only late in the show, but throughout it, we get the yearning they have for each other and the need to suppress it. Mariko takes Blackthorne to a brothel to meet with a high-priced prostitute (as a reward for his service), and the courtesan can see that Mariko digs him, so she forces Mariko to translate super-duper sexy talk that she, the prostitute, is supposedly saying, but we know it’s coming from Mariko. Scenes like that one make this a close-to-great show, because the actors do such a wonderful job with it. Sanada as Toranaga (who’s modeled on the dude who founded the final and most famous – in the West, at least – Shogunate in 1603) is wonderful, playing a long game in the political arena, and his machinations are a joy to watch, especially as we’re never sure if he’s really trying to outwit his enemies or if he has given up, as he seems to often in the show. There’s a LOT going on, in other words, and it’s done really well, for the most part. The season’s climax really comes in the penultimate episode, and that’s why the final episode feels so weird – it’s as if we’ve been building up to something very big, but then it never occurs (I’m trying not to spoil things, although the book is, after all, 50 years old). It might be a reflection of the restrained way the Japanese have of handling things – in this show, the main characters have mainly mastered the technique of saying things that sound polite but really aren’t, and it’s a joy to watch some of the biting conversations the characters have – so that we think there’s going to be a huge event, but the Japanese deflate it easily. Maybe. Anyway, this is very good show, and depending on where they go with it, it might be a great one when it’s all said and done. Take a look at it!

The Regime (HBO). Kate Winslet, after 30 years of playing deadly serious characters, decides to go a bit nuts as the chancellor of an unnamed Central European country in this oddball satire, which doesn’t quite hit but certainly gets points for trying. Winslet begins the show as a hypochondriac, using people to walk in front of her to check the humidity in the room and generally acting weird. Her latest humidity-detector, Matthias Schoenaerts, is a soldier who led a massacre in one of the country’s cobalt mines and does not seem terribly happy to be there, but he quickly becomes a Svengali to Winslet, encouraging her to switch to an “all-peasant” diet (lots of potatoes and dirt with worms in it), defy the Americans (who have been negotiating a cobalt concession with Winslet), and forcing her into a sexually charged exercise regimen. Meanwhile, the country’s plutocrats, assisted by Winslet’s husband (played by Guillaume Gallienne), are trying to get rid of Schoenaerts and return to the good old days, when they were enriching themselves. Winslet is wacky as Chancellor Vernham, playing a total megalomaniac to the hilt (certainly no parallels to any situation in any country that we know of, currently!), as she talks about how much she loves her countrymen, she sings at state banquets (somewhat badly, which is of course part of the joke), becomes chilling at the drop of a hat, has contentious conversations with her dead father, who’s preserved in a glass case like Lenin, and can’t handle rejection when the inevitable revolution comes. The show zags a lot, with weird plot points coming up – at one point, for instance, Schoenaerts is banished to prison, but one wonders if it’s a ploy by Elena, as the ex-chancellor (Hugh Grant) just happens to be in the same prison, so perhaps Winslet wanted them to meet? Meanwhile, Andrea Riseborough, almost unrecognizable, is Renfield to Elena’s count, as she knows everything that’s going on in the “people’s palace” and seems to have lots of schemes about how to keep Winslet on course without being too obvious about it. Riseborough (who’s an attractive woman, and they really “ugly her up” for this role) is excellent, and the way her story ends was very vexing, because it felt unnecessarily cruel. The show gets dark in the end, because there is, after all, a revolution, and that’s where the show goes off the rails a bit, because we’re supposed to feel … bad? for Elena and Herbert as they try to escape the rebels, but while he, at least, does care about the peasants in the country, he’s still an unrepetent murderer and she’s a dictator. It’s weird. Still, it’s a beautiful show, the acting is terrific, the general vibe of an out-of-touch authoritarian government works pretty well … it’s just a bit off in the execution. Worth a watch, but with some reservations.

Elsbeth season 1 (CBS/Paramount+). I wanted to like Elsbeth more than I did, although I’ll probably check out season 2, so there you go. Carrie Preston is pretty good as the title character, who comes to New York (I guess she was a character on The Good Wife?) to monitor the police department due to some illegal stuff going on and ends up solving cases for them (plus, she has a secret agenda as well!). She’s fun as a complete weirdo, but the show is a bit disappointing. The murders are presented “Columbo-style,” with the audience seeing the criminal commit the crime and then Elsbeth figuring out they did it. I don’t have a big problem with this kind of murder “mystery” – I don’t love it, but it’s fine – but because we already know who did it, the showrunners skip things like having other suspects as red herrings, and that’s where the show gets frustrating. Some of the deaths aren’t even considered murders right away, but Elsbeth thinks they’re fishy, and she usually targets the guilty party right away for no good reason, just a vibe. Cat-and-mouse games between murderers and cops/investigators can be fun, but Elsbeth is always right and the criminals start panicking almost immediately (none of them ever simply call security if she’s bothering them at work or just not talk to her if she hounding them, because then she would have no case!), so there’s just not a lot of tension. The final episode, which plays more like a “traditional” show (as in, we don’t know who did it), is actually quite a good one, because Elsbeth is floundering a bit, too, so it’s more interesting because she’s not completely right the entire time. Still, it’s a good cast – Carra Patterson is the cop assigned to hang out with Elsbeth, and they become buddies, and Wendell Pierce as the captain is always fun to see, plus she doesn’t always follow the same detective around, so they get some interesting characters that way – and it’s relatively charming, and they get fun guest stars to be the murderers (Stephen Moyer! Linda Lavin! Blair Underwood!), so, like I said, I’ll probably check out season 2.


AWOLNATION, Angels Miners & the Lightning Riders, Better Noise Music, 2020.

As I noted a few months ago, I enjoyed AWOLNATION’s third album more than their second, so I figured I could safely get the fourth, and it’s also pretty good. It begins with the thrumming, ethereal “The Best,” a fun disco tune with Aaron Bruno’s typically dark lyrics, then it shifts downward to “Slam (Angel Miners), which is a strange, sepulchral tune that seems to leave Bruno a bit enervated. Things kick up again with the upbeat “Mayday!!! (Fiesta Fever),” which is fun but inconsequential. Bruno stays a bit inconsequential with “Lightning Riders,” which is a very nice life-affirming song with cheering lyrics and uplifting music. “California Halo Blue” is about wildfires in California, and the lyrics remain somewhat bland while the music is powerful and haunting. The song that feels most like the band’s excellent first album is “Radical,” both in the grungy music and the simple but powerful lyrics, and even the way Bruno sings it, with a bit more anger than as been evident on their subsequent albums. I know albums don’t work this way, but it seems like “Radical” got Bruno up off the couch, because “Battered, Black & Blue (Hole in My Heart),” the next song, is also a bit of a banger, with nice, shredding guitars on the verses, and Bruno’s patented falsetto on the chorus. I get what Bruno and Rivers Cuomo are trying to do with “Pacific Coast Highway in the Movies,” as the goofy music is juxtaposed with some kind of dark lyrics, but it doesn’t really work, unfortunately. It leads to “Half Italian,” another song that’s fine but nothing special, but luckily, the album ends with “I’m a Wreck,” which begins with a calm, nostalgic-feeling kind of vibe and then launches into a hardcore, rage-filled scream by Bruno, who seems like he needs to get something off his chest pretty badly. It’s a good way to end the album, but it’s also frustrating, because with this and a few others, it’s clear that the band can still crank out some very cool tunes, but they can’t quite put it all together. I mean, it’s too bad that the first song on the album is the best one, but such is life. Bruno claims that the next album will be the band’s last, and I’ll get it (I didn’t get the EP they released last year, but I’ll probably get it eventually), and we shall see what it’s like. Fingers crossed!


Here’s the money I spent in May!

1 May: $105.87
8 May: $25.16
15 May: $125.78
22 May: $122.29
29 May: $185.65

Look at that glorious second week of May! It couldn’t last, of course, but dang. I have noticed my pre-orders have been a bit longer, so I assume these totals aren’t coming down significantly in the coming months, but I hope I can keep it manageable.

Money spent in May: $564.75
(May ’23: $691.27)
(May ’22: $825.15)
(May ’21: $880.63)

YTD: $2423.62
(2023: $2549.92)
(2022: $4678.53)
(2021: $3171.53)

Let’s check out the publishers and formats!

Abrams/Amulet: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Battle Quest Comics: 1 (1 trade paperback)
ComicMix: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Dark Horse: 1 (1 single issue)
DC: 2 (1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
Dynamite: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Epicenter Comics: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Fairsquare Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Fantagraphics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Humanoids: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Image: 6 (1 graphic novel, 5 trade paperbacks)
Invader Comics: 1 (1 single issue)
Mad Cave: 3 (1 single issue, 2 trade paperbacks)
Marvel: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Oni Press: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Random House: 1 (1 graphic novel)
T Pub: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Ten Ton Press: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Titan Comics: 1 (1 single issue)
Vault Comics: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Viz: 1 (1 manga volume)

4 “classic” reprints (20)
8 graphic novels (25)
1 manga volume (3)
5 single issues (29)
11 trade paperbacks (50)

So far this year, we have:

Ablaze: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
About Comics: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 “classic” reprint)
Abrams: 0 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 1 (3 graphic novels)
Ahoy: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 trade paperback)
Antarctic: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 trade paperback)
AWA: 0 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 0 (3 trade paperbacks)
Battle Quest Comics: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 trade paperback)
Boom! Studios: 1 + 1 + 0 + 2 + 0 (1 “classic” reprint, 3 trade paperbacks)
Clover Press: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
ComicMix: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Dark Horse: 3 + 3 + 1 + 3 + 1 (4 “classic” reprints, 6 single issues, 1 trade paperback)
DC: 1 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 2 (1 “classic” reprint, 7 single issues, 7 trade paperbacks)
Dynamite: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Epicenter Comics: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Fairsquare Comics: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 graphic novel, 1 trade paperback)
Fantagraphics: 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 1 (1 “classic” reprint, 1 graphic novel)
First: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
First Second Books: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
Floating World Comics: 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
Humanoids: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 graphic novel)
IDW: 0 + 0 + 1 + 2 + 0 (3 trade paperbacks)
Image: 4 + 3 + 2 + 5 + 6 (1 “classic” reprint, 2 graphic novels, 5 single issues, 12 trade paperbacks)
Invader Comics: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 graphic novel, 1 single issue)
Mad Cave Studios: 2 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 3 (1 graphic novel, 2 single issues, 4 trade paperbacks)
Marvel: 3 + 3 + 2 + 4 + 1 (6 “classic” reprints, 2 single issues, 5 trade paperbacks)
MCD Books: 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
NBM: 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
Oni Press: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (2 trade paperbacks)
Papercutz: 0 + 0 + 0 + 2 + 0 (2 “classic” reprints)
Penthouse: 0 + 1 + 0 + 1 + 0 (2 single issues)
Random House: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 graphic novel)
Scout: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 single issue)
SLG: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 graphic novel)
T Pub: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 graphic novel)
Ten Ton Press: 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (1 graphic novel)
Titan Comics: 0 + 4 + 0 + 1 + 1 (1 graphic novel, 2 single issues, 3 trade paperbacks)
TKO Studios: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 trade paperback)
Top Shelf: 1 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 (2 graphic novels)
Valiant: 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 + 0 (1 single issue)
Vault: 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 1 (2 trade paperbacks)
Viz Media: 0 + 2 + 0 + 0 + 1 (3 manga volumes)
A Wave Blue World: 0 + 1 + 0 + 0 + 0 (1 graphic novel)


I still haven’t seen Furiosa yet (my daughter wants to go with me, and our timing has been off), but in honor of it, The Ringer did the best movie car chases of all time. I have no complaints, although I was a bit surprised by their #1.

Baseball is back (as you should know), the Phillies are putting together a superb season, and one of their players made history!

Baseball, of course, is long in history, which means it’s full of excellent stats. Like this one.

This young woman’s name is Alyssa Cleland.


She’s also missing a leg and could probably still kick my ass!

As you all know (or should) ABBA received an honor in Sweden recently. You should all be up on your ABBA news!

Look at those spry youngsters!


I’m a bit late with this, because of that confounded fifth week, which always messes with me, more this May because more than usual came out for me on the fifth week. I’m sure you survived just fine without this post, but I always feel a bit guilty about not getting it posted in a timely manner. So, sorry about that.

Anyway, May was notable for a big event unprecedented in American history … I turned 53 years old. That’s right, that had never happened in American history before!!!! Plus, I went back to work as a substitute (it was the end of the school year, so I only worked three days, but it counts!), which was fun:

My first day!

Meanwhile, a sad, cruel, little man got rightly convicted after a perfectly fair trial and his supporters went nuts. I saw a person tweet that instead of rioting, they just donated money, because a “rich” white man getting a trial and being allowed to defend himself and still getting convicted is exactly the same as a poor, unarmed black man getting shot in the back by cops before he has even been arrested for a crime. Ok. Anyway, I’m glad the ex-president was held accountable, and it would be very nice if voters kept up the trend. I’m hopeful, but still nervous. We shall see.

A few weekends ago was the Phoenix comic book convention, which I try to attend, and this year I went with my daughter and her friend. My daughter has been to several, but her friend had never been to one, and she cosplayed as Vixen, so she was a big hit (she was the only Vixen there). She wanted to get pictures with others and was flabbergasted that anyone would want to get pictures with her. So that was neat. Here are some pictures:

My daughter and I before the con
My daughter and her friend ready to go in
The general crowd

I’m thinking about doing a retrospective of all the conventions I’ve been to, so I’ll save some photos for that post, but you get the idea. A good time was had by all, and I bought some cool stuff. Phoenix isn’t as good as convention as San Diego and Seattle, because not enough comics pro show up, but it’s not bad. It’s nice to spend the day out in the city before it gets too danged hot, which it’s about to!

I hope everyone is having a nice “summer” (I know technically it’s not summer yet, but come on – it totally is … unless you’re living in the Southern Hemisphere, in which case … whatever, you weirdos!) and I hope you’re doing things you dig. That’s all we can hope for in this life!


  1. Eric van Schaik

    And still waiting about your thoughts about all our musical tips. How come?

    I got the new Avengers Epic Collection and must pick up my copy of The Nasty.

    I’ll buy some cd’s every month and I usually don’t bore you with it but I’m very happy with Ayreon’s Earbook “Beneath The Waves”. It’s the recording of the shows played last september. We attended the show on Saturday evening and enjoyed it very much. Now we could see it on our big screen at home. In the extras we saw some interviews with fans and I was surprised that there are americans with good taste. 😉
    Here is a clip (if it works)

    5/19 Edward Reekers’ the Liberty Project
    We had been at the cd presentation last year and now they played the whole album which is a rock opera. It was in a venue we hadn’t been before and we liked the location and the band.

    5/25 Caligula’s Horse
    I read some positive reviews of the latest album and after listening to a few songs we decided to see the show. We were glad we did. I bought the tour shirt.

    5/26 Diggeth/The Quill
    For the second time this year free tickets. I wasn’t familiar with both bands but I had a great evening. Swedish band The Quill sounded a bit like the old Black Sabbath.

    5/29 Anouk (with orchestra)
    It was a seated concert so my wife didn’t compein because now she had a good view of all that happened on stage. It was nice to hear some of the songs in another setting and they sounded great being played by an orchestra. I hope it was recorded.

    6/1 Anouk (with band)
    Because my wife finished work early we had a good spot in front of the podium. Anouk was in great form and she told funny anecdotes about the songs.

    Real life stuff:

    Yesterday I had a lovely root canal treatment. The dentist told me I was just in time. Lucky me.

    After 5 month it seems we have a new government. I say seems because the 4 party’s that where negotiating have an agreement but now they have to search for ministers. The search will take at least 8 weeks, so we’ll still waiting.

    I’m glad I’m not a Nicki Minaj fan. She started her first Amsterdam show almost 3 houres late (no respect to here fans imo) so a lot of them couldn’t see the whole show because otherwise they would be stranded at the train station. When she wanted to fly to Manchester the police discovered soft drugs and she got arrested. She would play again in Amsterday at Sunday 6/2 but now she cancelled the show. She claimed being traumatised, but she thinks she’s above the law just like the orange guy. Unbelivable…

    Have your heard or seen about Eurovision? 4 weeks later it’s still unclear what really happened with Joost Klein. By letting Isreal participating they made the non political event political. Not a good move…

    I know you don’t see a lot of concerts but with these new rules it will be even less I’m afraid…: The new visa fees for foreign artists are out. This is not good. In fact, this is an all-out DISASTER. https://www.ajournalofmusicalthings.com/the-new-visa-fees-for-foreign-artists-are-out-this-is-not-good/

    1. Greg Burgas

      Time just keep slipping away from me, sir. I start out the month full of piss and vinegar, thinking I’m going to be able to finally get through all the songs, and then I look up and it’s the last day of the month and I haven’t done it. I think I’m going to break down and do them a little at a time, because I have actually made it through your suggestions, so I could write about them! I will try, again, to get to them. Stupid life, getting in the way! 🙂

      I didn’t see anything about Eurovision, but I always thought allowing Israel to compete stretched the boundaries just a bit on the “Euro” part.

      Well, that’s sucky news about the visas. Sheesh, I’m liking ‘Murica less and less. We really have our heads up our asses sometimes!

  2. Der

    That is a nice Vixen cosplay. Also I really like your riddler cosplay.

    This was a good month for me, at least when talking about comics. I only got one comic this month but was one I was looking for for a long time: Sharaz-de from Sergio Toppi. There was an amazon sale this month and some of his volumes were discounted, but I really, really wanted this one since some dude with a decent riddler cosplay wrote a review for another comic blog. So yeah, only one but pretty good stuff

    Also, finally we just finished with our presidential elections, so we can all rest from the election drama and begin the regular old political drama. It wasn’t even a contest since the party in power got a 60% vote against a 30% from the closest competitor, also it appears they got majority in the congress and senate so it as a landslide. But the important part in this election was: Me

    In our country the elections are organized by something they call “decentralized organism” wich means the election organizer does it’s own thing, and they just do a lottery and the “winners” are asked to participate organizing the ballot locations and everything. This time they told me that I could participate and well, since I’m a househusband without a paying job I said let’s go(I wanted to see how the elections are run, and they promised some small payment also)

    Oh boy, let me tell you, it was exhausting hard work. I mean they give you the ballots, the place and everything, but you have to set up the place, welcome the people, give them their ballots, tell them where they have to put them once they finished, count the ballots at the end of the day and do a lot of bookkepping. We started at like 7 am(But I had to get up at 5:45 am to get ready) and I finished at around 1am the next day. I’m still recovering from all of it, it was an interesting experience but oh boy I’m never doing that again

    1. Greg Burgas

      I mean, technically it’s just a Riddler shirt, not cosplay … but thanks!

      Very cool you got that Toppi book. All these years later, I still it’s my favorite by him, although his other work is, of course, phenomenal.

      Good job working for the election – my wife and I are volunteering for the upcoming one, but the organizer (who I was friends with in high school) hasn’t told us what we are doing yet. I do not think it will be as involved as what you did! That’s pretty cool, though, although … yeah, once seems like it’s enough!

      1. Der

        Hey man, that’s a “Riddler just going for a round of golf” cosplay if I ever see one.

        Also, good thing that you are teaching, I hope you are dedicating at least 15 minutes each class talking about how you would write the perfect X-men comic. I tried once, like 20+ years ago being a teacher and it was hell. I’m not made to be a teacher. I respect the hell out of teachers just because of that

        1. Greg Burgas

          Ha! I should have thought of that! 🙂

          If I get the chance, I will totally tell the kids about my X-Men plan. I told my daughter’s friend that when I write the X-Men, I plan to kill Gambit in every issue, because she foolishly thinks Gambit is a good character!

          I love teaching. Only high school, though, because I definitely could not handle younger kids. At least with high school kids, you can have some decent conversations with them because they know a little bit. Plus, they can handle my somewhat caustic sense of humor a bit better!

  3. You bought a lot of stuff that I almost bought. I might hope for a Dracula paperback, though it sounds less interesting than I’d hoped. Looking forward to Newburn vol 2.

    Good stuff I read recently includes: The Wild’s End collection of the first three volumes (loved it to pieces– great characters), Kaptara vol 2 (it’s a lot of goofy fun and surprisingly emotionally affecting!), Rumpus Room (similar to an idea from Billionaire Island, I think, but a little meaner and a solid metaphor for our current society), and Transformers vol 1 (I am not a Transformers guy at all but bought for Johnson– love the art, page structures, sound effects, and energy).

    I collected every appearance of ROM just in time for them to announce the Omnibus, and then I went and bought that too. I’m worried this will turn me into an Omnibus guy– it’s a gorgeous book, and includes the letters pages! Haven’t gotten around to reading that yet, but I’ve also bought the Micronauts Omnibus and ordered further volumes of ROM and Micronauts, and the forthcoming Godzilla collection. What’s next, Shogun Warriors?

    Anyway, while I have not read the entirety of ROM yet, I started picking them up as a kid and have always dug it. Mantlo puts a lot of effort into expanding a single toy into a fleshed-out universe. And while I wasn’t a huge Sal Buscema fan as a kid, I’ve grown into a big fan of Sal in my adult years– he’s the definitive Hulk artist, he drew the best post-Ditko Spider-Man run (Spectacular, with DeMatteis), and he’s just a strong, steady draftsman who presents clear action and good characterization/emotion. Which is a feat when your hero has a blank face!

    I guess I gravitate to noble alien warriors, and I love the central premise of ROM seeming like a monster murdering people, though he’s actually a hero fighting monsters. Like Klaatu in the body of Gort.

    Lettering can definitely affect my enjoyment of a comic. It’s part of the visual aesthetic of the comic and an aspect of the reading experience your eyes pay a lot of attention to! Bad or ‘off’ lettering is like watching a movie with bad sound. It nags, and it breaks the illusion.

    I liked The Regime a lot– off-kilter just enough in both a humorous and Cronenbergian way. Elsbeth is a lot of fun as well. Yes, it’s literally just Columbo, but I like Columbo, and it’s smart and breezy, though I agree they tend to have Elsbeth peg who the killer is way too quickly.

    Tracker is very much Dad TV, trying to glom onto the success of Reacher (I just watched the first season of that too, btw, and it’s good stuff). Base it off a book series, take an actor who played a superhero in Smallville (heck, they both played Aquaman at one point too), make him super-capable, call him/the show something ending in “-er,” dress Canada up like some U.S. city, etc. I liked the vibe in Tracker’s pilot and the throwback nature of the wandering hero plot, but overall it’s a pretty dull show, and the stories and environments they put him in are too same-y.

    Furiosa’s a good time. I’ve been rewatching the other Mad Maxes, and I think these later ones, especially Fury Road and Furiosa are the closest thing we have to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World in movies. A visionary’s legendary tales of a world that’s coming, filled with archetypal warriors with weird names who speak in weird poetic slang and who represent big ideas. Our modern society writ large on a mythic canvas. Furiosa herself reminds me of both Scott Free and Big Barda– stolen from paradise and turning herself into a female fury to escape.

    Nice floating shelves! Also, where do I buy that Riddler shirt?

    1. I perused that car chase listicle. I just recently watched Ronin for the first time, and it’s a great flick about the poetry of hard men, but the car chase stuff just seemed influenced by Friedkin movies– which they place lower down the list! I’d definitely have To Live and Die in L.A. and Blues Brothers closer to the top. But now I’ll have to track down the original Gone in 60 Seconds and give that a look.

    2. Greg Burgas

      I read both Wild’s End and Rumpus Room, as you should know! 🙂 There’s a new Wild’s End volume, you know!

      “Best post-Ditko Spider-Man run”? That’s a bold statement, sir!

      The biggest problem I have with Tracker is that he’s so uber-competent, so it’s hard for the show to build tension. But I still like it for what it is. And hey, I’m a Dad, so it’s right up my alley!

      Good point about the Mad Max movies. I wonder how much Miller knows about Kirby.

      My wife digs the floating shelves – she likes any cool way we can display our books, actually. And I don’t know where I got the Riddler shirt – it was on-line somewhere, but it was a few years ago, so I can’t remember the site. Sorry!

      I was surprised that Ronin was on top, but while it was influenced by the Friedkin movies, I just think the better technology from the 1970s to the 1990s makes the car chases work a bit better. But that’s just, like, my opinion, man.

      1. Yeah, I mention those because I know you already talked about ’em! But I’m usually a month behind your column, at least. The new Wild’s End volume is on my to-read pile. I fell off my reading routine for a couple weeks, and I need to get back into it.

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