“Change,” Joshua said. “A Messiah has to bring change. Change comes through action. Balthasar once said to me, ‘There’s no such thing as a conservative hero.’ He was wise, that old man.” (Christopher Moore, from Lamb)
Everyone who has read comics regularly probably knows the term “inventory story” – a story someone writes that gets filed away in a drawer, to be brought out if the creative team gets behind and they need something to publish to satisfy the greedy masses. I’m not sure if they do “inventory stories” anymore – it seems they’re more willing to delay a book slightly than in the past – so maybe they’re a curio from a time long gone? Anyway, this is going to be a bit of an “inventory post” – I didn’t get it done in September, obviously, and I’m late already for October. Lots of real-world stuff, some good and some bad, has really eaten away my time, and then I was on vacation, and since I got back, things have been busy, so I’m just not feeling it right now. I’ll write a little about the stuff I consumed, but not very much. Sorry!
Usually I do the five best comics I read in the month, but because it’s two months, I’ll do the top ten. Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora, and Tamra Bonvillain bring Once & Future to an end, and while this final arc feels the tiniest bit rushed (lots of time jumps!), it’s still a terrific finish to a terrific series. Gillen seems a bit shocked that Mora drew the entire series, as am I, but the art is excellent, so that’s nice. I’m in the bag for Gillen, as you know, but this is still a very cool adventure with a lot of interesting ideas in it. Hit Me is a nifty heist comic (you know I love me some heist comics!) about a woman who hires herself out to get beat up – it’s a sex thing, naturally – and gets caught up in a heist that she finds it difficult to get out of. Christa Faust has been cranking out some really good work recently for AWA, and this is another example. Peter Milligan’s Human Remains is a fascinating book about strange creatures that manifest when humans show strong emotions and eat them, so people have learned how to control themselves. His explanation for the monsters is weird and doesn’t really pan out, but it’s still a very interesting book about the way external stressors can change behavior … in a weird, sci-fi kind of context, which is always a good place to explore these kinds of things. Dan Jurgens has a very good time with Blue and Gold, so that’s nice. He does a good job showing the nature of fame in a superhero world and also the stress of trying to monetize superheroing when people think you should be doing it out of the goodness of your heart. Ryan Sook doesn’t draw the entire book, which is too bad, but when you have Cully Hamner backing you up, that’s pretty good. There’s not much to say about the latest Batman: Black and White: Get a bunch of good creators and turn them loose on the Bat-dude, and you’re going to get good comics! Edo has been telling you about Impossible Jones for a while, and now I am, too! It’s about a thief who gets superpowers and decides to masquerade as a hero while still thieving, and while John Ostrander’s introduction lies about a couple of things – A: that comics aren’t fun anymore; and B: that Impossible Jones is just “fun” (it is, but there’s a good amount of violence) – you shouldn’t let that dissuade you! Karl Kesel and David Hahn know a thing or two about making comics, and this is a good one. Bylines in Blood is a neat sci-fi thriller about a reporter whose former editor is murdered and her attempts to find the truth about it in a “post-truth” world. Sadly, it doesn’t need to be set in the future, but the sci-fi elements do make it a bit more interesting. Something Is Killing the Children feels like it regains a bit of momentum in volume 5, after it had slowed down a bit, as Erica is on her own hunting monsters but her former employers don’t like that, so they send a killer after her. The urgency of the early issues is back, which is nice. Rainbow Rowell’s She-Hulk is a strange animal. On the one hand, it’s refreshing that the stakes are so low – basically, Jen is trying to help Jack of Hearts figure out what happened to him, because he can’t remember – but on the other hand, the stakes are so low that it feels like the book meanders a bit. That’s always a tough needle to thread, and while Rowell does a pretty good job, occasionally I wanted something to happen. Finally, Slumber is an interesting story about a woman who enters your dreams and kills your nightmares, but she’s also searching for a specific nightmare that stole her child. Things do not go well, as you might expect.
Astonishing Times is about a reporter investigating a superhero conspiracy, and it’s pretty good. The Black Box is about a curio in the White House that has the most top-secret secrets on it and the man who’s trying to make it public, much to the government’s chagrin. Caffeinated Hearts is a charming story about a waitress at a coffee shop having a day, although I got it because Stefano Cardoselli drew it, and I’m getting anything he draws these days. Ted Naifeh has another volume of The Crumrin Chronicles, and while it’s not quite as good as the first volume, it’s still Naifeh doing Crumrin stuff, which means it’s pretty good. DC has another fun anthology, this one Halloween-themed and having the Phantom Stranger guide us around the creepy corners of the DCU. There’s a Fearless Dawn “collection,” with some short stories Steve Mannion has done recently, and they’re the usual goofy stuff from Mannion. Jeremy Haun and Christopher Mitten have 40 Seconds, an interesting sci-fi story about a team of scientist/explorers jumping through portals to alien worlds, where strange things await. Harley Quinn’s 30th anniversary elicits an anthology about her, and, as you can see above, I dig anthologies, so this is fun to check out. I wish I had more time to write about Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity, which is very nice-looking (it’s mostly Mico Suayan, and the art is very keen) and actually not a bad psychological thriller, but because it stars Harley Quinn and the Joker, it so ridiculously misses the point of both characters. I know these “Black Label” books play a bit fast and loose with continuity, but dang, why use these characters if you’re not even going to try to hew closely to the way they “should” be? It’s frustrating. The Last Book You’ll Ever Read is a weird, interesting horror story about a woman whose book turns into kind of a religious text for apocalyptic weirdos. It’s kind of neat. Santa Claus is a young, hot dude in The Naughty List, where his list of “bad” people is stolen and the thief starts killing those on it, and Santa needs to get it back. It’s fun, but it does take its time and doesn’t finish, and who knows if we’ll get more? New Masters is a nice adventure in which a bunch of different people want a MacGuffin and will go to great lengths to get it. Its main selling point, it seems, is that it’s set in Africa in the future, and so the culture of western Africa is well represented, but the story is still quite familiar (not bad, just familiar). And Radiant Black continues with more superheroics, as Kyle Higgins continues to do a nice job with it. I haven’t read any of the spin-offs, but it doesn’t feel like it’s necessary.
Power looks at how genocide came to be defined, which was the work of essentially one man, Raphael Lemkin, and then looks at how the United States has responded to the 20th-century genocides: Armenia, Germany, Cambodia, Iraq, Rwanda, and the Balkans. Unsurprisingly, the answer is: Not well. It’s a very thorough book, and Power has no problem condemning the States (although not many countries respond well, a fact she does point out), but even she alludes to the problem with intervention: it’s tricky. What can America do? How far should it go in combatting genocide? How much should they care about it when there are domestic problems to worry about? When does it become genocide? These aren’t easy answers, and while Power can write from a position of moral certitude (and most people on the outside can preach from a position of moral certitude), it’s not as clear-cut for the people making the decisions. I certainly agree with Power that the U.S. should have done more and should do more in genocidal situations, but it doesn’t seem as easy as she thinks it is. Still, it’s a fascinating book.
I knew about Xenophon and his expedition, but not a lot of the details, so this is an interesting book. I mean, Prevas basically just tells the story, but he did go to some of the places where Xenophon marched (some of it was in Iraq, and was inaccessible to him) to check things out, so that’s pretty neat. I don’t know what to say about the book – we get a recap of the Persian invasion of Greece, a recap of the Peloponnesian War, and then he dives into the expedition. Prevas leans hard into the idea of the Greeks being so much better at soldiering than the Persians, but the historical record does back him up a bit (although, you know, they were all written by Greeks, so, you know), so there’s that. It’s an interesting book if you don’t know much about Xenophon, but it is a bit quick, so I’m not sure how much more historians actually know about what happened and if it’s not quite as in-depth as it could be. But I’m not going to worry about that!
The Expanse (Netflix). We rewatched the first five seasons in preparation for the final one, and it’s still one of the best sci-fi shows ever, I should think. The final season was a bit off because it was shorter (only six episodes) and they introduced stuff that is in the three books they didn’t get to and will probably never get paid off (they’re thinking about movies to finish off, but who knows?), but overall, it was pretty good. Not as good, perhaps, as some of the earlier seasons, but still. This is a terrific show.
Grantchester season 6 (PBS). The show has gotten more into the personal lives of its leads, which is fine, I guess, but I miss the mysteries a bit. I don’t mind that they check in on everyone, but our friendly neighborhood vicar got really randy this season, banging a woman he just met who turns out to be engaged to his cop buddy’s boss, and then not being able to stop banging her even after he knows what’s going on. I’ve said this before, but I don’t love the way so-called “historical” fiction deals with some things, and while the show did a good job with Leonard coming out of the closet in 1950s England, nobody seems to care that their vicar is banging not only an unmarried woman, but a woman who is actually engaged to someone else. Sigh. Anyway, it’s still a nice show. We shall see if it comes back for another season!
The Bletchley Circle season 2 (Netflix). We liked season 1 but never got around to watching season 2, so when I was reminded of it recently, we decided to check it out. It’s pretty good – the women who worked at Bletchley Park during the war help another co-worker who’s been accused of murder, and then they get involved in the black market and what the black marketeers are selling, and it ain’t good. The actors are strong, the stories are interesting … I guess only two seasons were made, so there are only seven episodes, so it will be a quick watch if you’re interested!
Only Murders in the Building season 2 (Hulu). Another good season, as the cast tries to figure out who killed the mean old lady who ran the tenant association. The reveal is a bit … unlikely, maybe? but isn’t too wild, and it ties into the first season nicely, and there are other callbacks as well, which is nice. I don’t know – it’s a good, fun show, and the three leads are very good, which isn’t surprising with regard to Short and Martin, but maybe is a little bit with regard to Gomez? The ending, which sets up season 3, is very, very fun – not only the victim, but the circumstances in which it happens and the leads’ reaction to yet another murder. Good stuff!
She-Hulk season 1 (Disney+). The final episode of this season might be the greatest half-hour in the history of the MCU. The show is perfectly fine, although I would have liked to see a bit more lawyering, but it’s still okay. The plot threads were a bit messy, but I wonder how much of that was deliberate just so the showrunners could give us the final episode, which seems deliberately vague about some of those threads. I don’t want to spoil anything about the last episode if you haven’t seen it, but I loved that Marvel leaned into the John Byrne interpretation of the character so much. Maslany kills it, too.
Werewolf by Night (Disney). I’m a bit shocked that Disney//Marvel would do this kind of thing, because it’s almost pure horror pulp, and it seems out of joint with most of the MCU, but it’s really, really good. I’m a bit bummed that they called it “Werewolf by Night,” because it kind of gives it away if you don’t know that “Jack” (Gael García Bernal) is an actual werewolf, but oh well. It’s a simple plot – Ulysses Bloodstone has died and several hunters come together to hunt a monster in order to get the bloodstone, and Laura Donnelly shows up as Elsa, and things get pretty bloody (well, bloody for a Marvel/Disney show, which is still pretty violent). The practical effects are terrific, the “oldening” of the film is fun (“burn marks,” small skips, things like that), and it’s just a very cool hour of weird Marvel goodness. Everyone is bitching about “Phase 4” not being all that focused, and I’m really mystified by it, because Marvel is getting weirder as they move forward, and I am here for it!
I got far too many “classic” reprints to list, but some of the highlights are the Artisan Edition of EC stories from IDW, a gigantic collection of Ray Bradbury EC stories from Fantagraphics, the second nice hardcovers of Señorita Rio stories from PS Artbooks, the giant Miracleman Omnibus (with a few stories I hadn’t owned, which is why I got it), and a Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans Ommibus, which I’m trying once again to see if I can actually get into the Teen Titans. Lots of other cool stuff, too, but those are the highlights.
Here’s what I spent in the past two months!
7 September: $228.97
14 September: $184.76
21 September: $176.11
28 September: $262.92
5 October: $118.77
26 October: $741.85
Money spent in September: $872.76 (September 2021: $855.20)
Money spent in October: $860.62 (October 2021: $662.60)
YTD: $8992.21 (2021: $6859.07)
Let’s check out the publishers!
Abrams Comicarts: 2 (2 graphic novels)
AfterShock: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Asylum Press: 1 (1 single issue)
Avery Hill: 1 (1 graphic novel)
AWA/Upshot: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Black Caravan: 1 (1 single issue)
Bold Type Books: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Boom! Studios: 4 (1 graphic novel 2 single issues, 1 trade paperback)
Caliber: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Cex Publishing: 1 (1 graphic novel)
ComicMix: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Dark Horse: 13 (2 “classic” reprints, 3 graphic novels, 6 single issues, 2 trade paperbacks)
DC: 7 (1 “classic” reprint, 3 single issues, 3 trade paperbacks)
Del Rey: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Drawn & Quarterly: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Epicenter Comics: 2 (1 “classic” reprint, 1 graphic novel)
Fairsquare Comics: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Fantagraphics: 2 (1 “classic” reprint, 1 graphic novel)
Floating World Comics: 1 (1 trade paperback)
Harper Alley: 1 (1 graphic novel)
IDW: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Image: 9 (1 “classic” reprint, 1 graphic novel, 4 single issues, 3 trade paperbacks)
Magnetic Press: 2 (2 graphic novels)
Marvel: 9 (6 “classic” reprints, 2 single issues, 1 trade paperback)
Oni Press: 4 (2 graphic novels, 2 trade paperbacks)
PS Artbooks: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Scout Comics: 2 (1 single issue, 1 trade paperback)
Simon & Schuster: 1 (1 graphic novel)
SitComics: 1 (1 single issue)
Source Point Press: 1 (1 single issue)
Titan Comics: 1 (1 “classic” reprint)
Tuttle Publishing: 1 (1 graphic novel)
Vault Comics: 2 (2 trade paperbacks)
Viz: 2 (2 manga volumes)
17 “classic” reprints (63)
22 graphic novels (124)
2 manga volumes (7)
22 single issues (128)
19 trade paperbacks (167)
Here are the numbers by publisher for the year!
A14 Books: 1
Abrams Comicarts: 6
Action Lab: 2
Ahoy Comics: 6
Amulet Books/Abrams: 1
Antarctic Press: 1
Archie Comics: 1
Asylum Press: 1
Avery Hill: 1
AWA Studios: 9
Bad Idea: 5
Black Caravan: 1
Black Mask Studios: 1
Black Panel Press: 1
Bliss on Tap: 1
Bold Type Books: 1
Boom! Studios: 20
Cartoon Books: 1
Cex Publishing: 1
Clover Press: 5
Conundrum Press: 1
Darby Pop: 2
Dark Horse: 60
Dead Reckoning: 2
Del Rey: 2
Drawn & Quarterly: 3
Epicenter Comics: 3
Fairsquare Comics: 2
Fanfare/Ponent Mon: 1
Floating World Comics: 3
Forged by Fire: 5
Frank Miller Presents: 1
Gallery 13: 1
Graphic Mundi: 4
Graphic Universe: 1
Harper Alley: 1
Heavy Metal: 1
Hermes Press: 1
Holiday House: 1
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 1
Insight Comics: 1
Invader Comics: 1
Legendary Comics: 1
Little, Brown and Company: 1
Magnetic Press: 3
NoBrow Press: 1
One Piece Books: 1
Oni Press: 5
Outland Entertainment: 1
PM Press: 1
PS Artbooks: 9
Red 5 Comics: 3
Scout Comics: 8
Second Sight Publishing: 1
Silver Sprocket: 1
Simon & Schuster: 1
Soaring Penguin Press: 1
Source Point Press: 5
Titan Comics: 7
Top Shelf: 2
Tuttle Publishing: 3
Udon Entertainment: 1
Uncivilized Books: 1
Vault Comics: 6
Viz Media: 6
A Wave Blue World: 1
West Margin Press: 1
Z2 Comics: 1
It’s been a frustrating couple of months here, as I just can’t seem to find enough time to waste writing about comics, but I like writing about comics, damn it! I’ll spare you any discussion about what’s going on at home – I’ve written about my 17-year-old many times, and she’s still being 17 years old and she’s still dealing with depression and anxiety. I did, as you might recall, go to Italy for two weeks, so I’ll write a bit about that, if you don’t mind.
We had a good time. The daughter was a pain in the ass about 25-30% of the time, whining about being tired, not hungry, sick to her stomach, or homesick at various times, and we didn’t really care too, too much (I got a bit grumpy with her once, but I tried to just leave her be when she got that way, because it doesn’t help to get mad). We were staying at Airbnbs, so we simply told her to chill out and we would go do things, and we did. My wife was a bit madder at her because we paid for tickets for some things that she didn’t want to do (including our Coliseum tour – how do you go to Rome and not go to the Coliseum?!?!?), but whatever. I told her I will relish the day twenty years from now when she tells us sadly that she wished she had done more in Italy, because I will laugh and laugh at her (yes, I’m petty). The rest of the time she was fine, but when she gets pissy, she shuts right down and there’s nothing you can do. We just went out and had fun on our own! Here’s a quick itinerary: We arrived in Zurich on Saturday, 8 October. We went to the Lindt chocolate factory to check it out (without the daughter, as she was “tired” and “homesick” after less than a day away from home), spent the night, then took the train on Sunday to Chur, where we also spent the night. The Bernina Express, a fun train ride over the Alps, leaves from Chur, so we took that on Monday to Tirano, where we got the train to Milan. We spent one night in Milan, and on Tuesday morning we checked out the cathedral before getting the train to Venice. We were there from Tuesday night until Friday morning. The first night we took a short walking tour and then got on a gondola and went around the city a bit. On Wednesday we went to the Peggy Guggenheim collection at her palazzo, which was neat. In the afternoon we got on a “bus” (the buses are fun, because they’re boats, obviously, but they run exactly like buses) to Murano, one of the outer islands, to check things out. On Thursday we took a tour of the Doge’s palace and St. Mark’s, then went up to the top of the clock tower to get a nice bird’s-eye view of the city. On Friday we zipped off to Florence for a few days. We went to the Uffizi gallery on Saturday morning, then wandered around the city while my wife and daughter shopped (part of her school assignment was to check out the fashion – we had planned it for fall break so she’d only miss one week of school, but her school changed fall break to the week before we left, so she missed two weeks of school and had to do some work while we were there … of which she did very little, but that’s her problem). On Sunday we went to the museum that houses David, and despite everyone knowing what the sculpture looks like, it’s still really impressive. We also saw the baptistery at the cathedral, and it turned out it was the last day it was open for months, as they’re doing renovations, so that was handy. On Monday we drove to San Marino, because I wanted to (I had been when I was a kid and thought it was neat, and it was). My wife didn’t know much about it before I mentioned it and she’ll say she thought it was a good idea because I said so, but it was really because she watches some couple on YouTube who travels everywhere, and it was only after they went to San Marino that she decided we should go! (I’m not bitter at all!!!). It’s a fun little country, and it was nice to drive around Italy for a bit. On Tuesday we saw the actual cathedral, and then we took the train to Rome. On Wednesday we saw the Capuchin crypt that’s decorated with bones (creepy but awesome) and checked out the Pantheon, but it was a relaxing day before the final few days, which were busy. On Thursday we took the train to Naples and toured Pompeii, then went up to Vesuvius, where you could walk to the summit if you wanted to. The wife and daughter didn’t make it, because the path was really, really steep, but I didn’t care, and although it almost killed me, I managed to get to the top. Phew! Then, on Friday, we had an early morning tour of the Vatican and a night tour of the Coliseum. The Coliseum tour was neat because we got to go in the basement where the gladiators and the animals hung out, and you can’t do that during the day (of course, we didn’t go up on the second level, which you can do during the day, so it’s a trade-off). We were also the only group in the place, which was neat. Finally, on Saturday we went to Nero’s “Golden House,” which is still underground because emperors built over it to erase Nero’s name. I also wanted to wander around the Forum, but it turns out that the entire area is fenced off and you need a ticket to get in, which I did not know. Stupid capitalists! On Sunday we were going to fly home, but we didn’t. My wife, you see, had gotten her phone stolen on the subway on Thursday, so she couldn’t check in for the flight on the app, and Aitalia’s web site was not working well at all, so we couldn’t check in. We went to the airport early to check in, but they had overbooked the flight (naturally), so they had given our seat away. (I keep saying I’m going to run for president in 2024 and my only plank will be that this kind of thing will be made illegal.) They couldn’t get us on another flight (because those were also packed), so we had to stay an extra day to catch the exact same flight, a day later. The problem is that the airport is 20 miles outside of Rome, so we weren’t going back to the city, and we had no transportation, so we couldn’t drive around the countryside. So we sat at the airport Hilton all day and we were bored out of our minds. Oh well. It was still a groovy vacation! Here are some photos:
Phew! That was fun, I hope. As I noted, even with the child being a pill quite a lot, we still had a great time. It was a lot of money, but we managed to spread out the costs over several months, because my wife had been booking things for some time, so we didn’t get hit hard all at once. That doesn’t mean we can do another vacation any time soon, though!
Have a nice week, everyone. Please get out and vote if you’re American, and let’s hope that by this time next week, women aren’t considered property and we can all still vote. Wouldn’t that be nice? And remember, if you use the link below, even if it’s to buy something completely different, we get a little money for the blog, which is always keen, right?