Friday, December 30, 2005

Runners Up, Volume 3

Ex Machina is full of boring images. Or rather it's full of images that should be boring, but Tony Harris just won't let them be.

The majority of the story takes place in the New York Mayor's mansion or City Hall. One of the story arcs this year revolved around jury duty. It's easy to draw compelling, attention-grabbing pictures of Captain America knocking out Hydra agents with his shield, even Rob Liefeld did it (if you could take your eyes off Cap's enormous breasts). The true test of an artist is to keep your eyes glued to the page during discussion of whether the city media office should issue a shooting permit to college kids who want to make a documentary about water tunnels.

That said, I'll contradict myself just one paragraph later. As much as I love the stories in Ex Machina and as intriguing as the characters can be, while I'm reading I can't help but wish Harris was drawing Batman or Daredevil or some other classic character.

This is proving to be the toughest category for me to judge. Last night, I had Ex Machina as my silver medalist, now it's out of the running.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Best Comics I Have Ever Bought In One Week

I have returned from India. Hi everyone. Successfully. Safely. Malaria free. All is good. I hope to go back soon. Was a great place. People were the nicest I have ever met. And I can now watch Cricket and Soccer without making fun of it. And on to comics.

This was the Best Damn Week of Comics I Have Ever Bought. Ever. I haven't even read the last one in the stack yet, that one being Fallen Angel, by Peter David. And I even have high hopes for it.

So, without further ado--ahem---EVER---here are my weeks reviews, all in one long article, so I'll keep the reviews short for you all. And, as always, NO spoilers.

Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her...
Part 4: Women and Children First

Let me be brief here: My favorite three characters in the comics universe are, in order, Moon Knight, Elektra & Black Widow. So here I have a limited series on one of my favorites. Am I going to bash it. Nope. Because its good. Because its THE Black Widow, not the Belova wanna-be. And its a mean Black Widow. Its a Black Widow that should have always been. Is it violent- hell yeah. She's a super spy with great connections and torture techniques. She does it well. She is good at it.

It has more Nick Fury in it. Right now the whole S.H.I.E.L.D./Nick Fury thing has me very interested. So I like it. It has Matt Murdock. (Don't get me started. WAIT til you see that review farther down.)

It has one of my favorite artists drawing this-- Bill Sienkiewicz. Probably because it was his Moon Knight art that was my big draw (oo..pun..) to MK, so I stick with Bill.

This is the venomous, riled up Black Widow that's just been tucked away all these years. She's been drawn out and let loose, and oh my, I'm staying out of the way and enjoying the ride.

Rating: 4/5. I'm playing favorites. Live with it. Its fun. Its violent. Its not really spy-ey, but seeing her wreak havoc on people who prey on others is good wholesome family fun.

CatWoman #50

I jumped into this book about 6 issues ago. Will Pfeiffer had a good rep, so I tried this book. Its not too bad. It has a good story, a decent character and Batman stays away (well, for the most part.) Some of the loose ends I'll have to go back and check up on, but I can do that another time.
This one guest stars Zatanna. And I'm betting you all know what that means. Think JLA stuff. And so it begins.
Remember when CatWoman was a playful villian, not a true villian but one out to just have fun and not really hurt anyone.

So does DC.

Overall rating: 3/5. The next arc looks pretty good. It was a nice setup. I expect Zatanna to make a rash guest appearances in some books soon.

New Avengers #14

The heck with Spider Woman: Origin. You get the whole kitten-caboodle in a nice synopsis. Save yer cash, get it here. I will say this: I miss Earth's Mightiest Heroes. But we have all seen alot of that rambling on this page more than once, and I'm sure that we'll see it again, just not right now. So, I'm stuck with who I have. I don't like Luke Cage. He does not fit. Simply put. Everyone else would actually have a chance at being an Avenger. Oh wait, I hate the Sentry. He is so chump change in this book. Now, everyone else could actually have a shot at being an Avenger. Because at one point I believe all the rest were, minus that loser Ronin. I TOLD YOU CHRIS IT WASN'T MURDOCK!!
I digress. This has some Fury stuff too. And its REAL good. Otherwise, not much else happens here. I'm SpiderWoman, here's whats happened to me. Blah blah blah. BRING ON KANG!!!....and then give me Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I will say that Cho did a great job on the art though. It did look pretty damn nice. He draws a great SpiderWoman.

Overall Rating: 3/5. Fury made it for me. I'd give it a 2.5, but I hate math, and decimals, just like fractions, give me a headache. Now give me my Warbird back dammit! "End Rant"

Wonder Woman #224
Marathon Pt. 2

Wonder Woman is coming to a conclusion. Sucks. Its one big fight scene of Amazons kicking ass, and um, getting their asses handed to them too.
Infinite Crisis stole a lot from this book. I would like to have seen the book come first, then IC as a nice synopsis. But no, DC had to spoil it for me. Rat Bastages.
I am hoping that the last cover is misleading. Warrior Princess. I would prefer her to go out in a blaze of glory, but for some reason I don't see it happening. She'll go with a whimper, and I'll swear at DC for weeks. (Just ask Chris how I swear at Marvel Team-Up.)
Themyscira- gone. Accomplice Amazon characters- gone. The story was a big review until near the end when Brother Eye speaks. Actually speaks to someone other than Batman. The book picks up speed then.
And the cover. I do so like the cover. Amazon warriors ready for battle. And that's what this book is. One big fight scene. And I am just fine with that.

Overall rating: 3/5. If IC didn't ruin this for me, it would be a 4. Damn you DC.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #26
Tomb of Namor 3/3

I get to see the FF fight more people. Wow, too bad they don't do more of that in the past like 40 years in the regular series. Maybe more people might buy it.
Toe to Toe vs. Namor. Its good. Its fun. Its a fight that takes up the entire book, plus character fun, plus geeky-science stuff. We get to see the unemotional Reed go ga-ga over Sue finally, in public even. That was fun. And Namor has a neat trick up his sleeve. Kinda cool.
I am going to hate to see Millar leave the book. I heard that the book was not so good before he took over, kicked ass while he's been on it. So I fear for the future. But I'll still give it a go.
What was up with the end though. I'm missing something. Someone give me a hint please.
Ultimate Vision story. Don't care.

Overall Rating: 5/5. This is the FF that I've always wanted to see. And that WAY wrong scene was kinda funny too. Ah, kids.

DareDevil #80
The Murdock Papers continue...

And I will probably say this a couple of times: This is the BEST damn story arc I have ever read. And I'm not kidding. This beats my original series Avengers 273-277 Masters of Evil arc. Beats my Avengers 41-55 Kang arc in the last recent? series. This beats my Frank Miller Daredevil/Elektra series even. I'm just going to say Wow. Everybody can beat up Bendis. His group stuff is not so good. I can admit that. But you give him one character. Let him write one character, and he can really make a story flow.
I get Daredevil. Eh.... I get Elektra. SWEET!! I get Black Widow. SWEET!! And I even get Elektra friends. SWEET!! We get continued guest appearances from Cage and Fist. I could not be more excited over this arc.
And, I want to know how THIS GUY gets all the chicks??!! What's up with that. I mean, they all come back to help this guy. What, he got pheromones like that SpiderWoman gal? Wait, wait, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW. I can already see the responses. Well, hush. I don't want to know. I'll just accept it.
I got goosebumps when I hit the middle of the book, you know, where the staples actually close. Cuz you knew what was coming, and it was excellent. And I get Battle Royale for some of it too. New Avengers, eat your heart out, cuz this was a far better, albeit short fight.
Alex Maleev, the art is perfect for this book. I haven't like all of his stuff, but damn it flows so well here.
The end of "To Be Concluded" . I want time to speed up please. Now. Please. Can I whine more?
Did I mention that this was the Best Damn Story Arc I Have Ever Read?
And quite honestly, I don't really care for DareDevil all that much.
But this has been a great run. Bendis. Stick with the single characters. You can truly develop them. Stay away from groups. No New Avengers, no House of M. Start a Dr. Strange title or something.
Ok, I'm done raving on this ish.
Wait, one more thing. Elektra rules. Wow. She so rules by the time this ish is over. At this point she could go be an Avenger and I wouldn't even blink. OK, maybe I would. And then not care. She can do no worse than Echo, err.. Ronin. Or Sentry.
Oh, and the picture of the cover- that's not what I actually received. Its Elektra in her classic red.
Now I'm done ranting.

Overall Rating: 6/5. I can do that. I don't like math. So it works for me. Dont' read this ish by itself. Get the Murdock Papers arc from the start and read on. That's incredible, or so Fran Tarkenton might say.

Thank you all.
I'm glad to be back.
Now there's ...three guys.....I'm fine with that. Trifecta. On board.


JLA:Classified #15 Is A Great Comic

I just finished reading it. I had to tell you this now.

It is great.

There are at least three or four moments that, to paraphrase Dave Campbell, are "F#$% Yeah!" Moments for fans of the JLA, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Martian Manhunter, or Green Lantern.

This is balls-out superheroics.

This is the JLA using their smarts as much as their powers.

This is the JLA working as a team and yet getting to shine individually as well.

This is All-Star Justice League.

Well done, Warren Ellis. Well done, Butch Guice.

Badly done, Michael Stribling, for these atrocious covers.

But overall, fine work. Very fine work.

Chris' New Year's Resolutions

The New Year is almost upon us, so I thought I'd share some of my comic-related New Year's Resolutions, just because I'm burned out from writing up the 2005 2 Guys Buying Comics Year End Awards. (Actually, it's not so much the writing as it is the rereading of everything I bought this year.)

I resolve:

To buy more #1 issues, in the interests of giving new series at least a fighting chance.

To buy more independent comics, not because I'm a soldier in the ridiculous philosophical war between indies and the Big Two, but because there's good stuff that just doesn't get enough (or any) shelf space.

To continue my tradition of completely ignoring manga, because dammit, I still just can't stand that style of art.

To get back on board the 2000AD train, because I've decided that I love the variety and quality of the stuff in there, even if sorting out the scheduling is a headache.

To be more adamant about dropping comics I don't like instead of going the completist route.

To go back and get the whole Brian Michael Bendis Daredevil run, because no matter how he's screwed up the Avengers, I have to admit that there's just too many people raving about these last twenty or so issues for me to ignore it.

To not get sucked in by every stupid event that comes down the--oh, who am I kidding? I might as well just hand my cash over to Marvel now for Civil War.

To update the blog more frequently.

To triple the size of my Essentials and Showcase Presents collections, because pound for pound they're still the best value in comics.

To find an artist for my own comics project.

To be a bit more generous, a little less bitter, and a lot more appreciative towards creators in the industry who, whether we like the work or not, on the whole work pretty darn hard so I can buy comics.

Ditto for my LCS guy.

To finally attend Comic-Con so I can get my sketchbooks going.

To sit back every once in awhile and appreciate the fact that I'm in a spot where I can share my comics thoughts, read others' comics thoughts, and enjoy the community that is the comicsblogoweb.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Runners Up, Volume 2

Mark Bagley didn't crack my top three (nor four for that matter), but I figured he deserved consideration for two reasons. The first came into focus for me a few weeks ago in my "Ultimate Omega Red" rant. I realized Bagley's art was 90% of the reason I was still putting up with the weak Ultimate Spider-Man stories.

Secondly, Bagley puts out twice as much art as any other penciller out there. Not only has he drawn every issue of the bi-weekly USM, he also manages to do a couple fill-ins throughout the year, as he did with Ultimate Iron Man most recently.

Bagley's art is clean and he manages to make sense of Spidey's acion sequences, which involve a lot of jumping, flipping, and bouncing around and can easily get confusing in the hands of less capable artists.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Runners Up, Volume 1

I've already hinted at our proposed "Best of" year end special which we've all been mulling over for almost two weeks and will continue to piece together until we post the results at the beginning of 2006 (read: next week). In the meantime, I figured I could review the lastest The Goon (excellent as usual) or contemplating whether I should even bother reading the text in Justice since I'm only picking it up for the art anyway, but instead I'll focus on some of the books that didn't make the cut for my final awards. Since we're going to be awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals, think of these as the the... um... I don't know... copper and nickel winners.

This book also would get consideration for Best Interior Art, though let me say I think Cary Nord gets a disproportionate amount of the credit for this book. The real star here is Dave Stewart. Regardless of the penciller, Conan always has a consistant look and that look is fabulously rich and textured.

On a side note, such seems to be the lot in life of Daves Stewart (please note the gramatically correct pluralization of Dave Stewart). Dave Stewart was the real musical architect of the Eurythmics, yet Annie Lennox got all the credit. Pitcher Dave Stewart never lost a game in any League Championship Series, yet guys like Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Joe Carter, Robbie Alomar, even Paul Molitor are thought of as the driving forces on those teams. Hell, the day he pitched a no-hitter, Fernando Valenzuela did the same thing! Poor Daves Stewart.

As a child of the 80's, I always associated Conan with the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. In turn, I always associated being a fan of Conan with my best-friend-in-fourth-grade Danny's father, who was the type of guy who hung Frank Frazetta posters of chainmail bikini-clad women in the dining room, wore bandanas and denim jackets with the sleeves cut off, and kept five months worth of water-damaged, biker babe-themed porn mags strewn about the floor of the bathroom.

In my late-teens and mid-20's, I actually started to hear people I actually respected speaking of Robert E. Howard's Conan books as worthy of my time. Still, the old prejudices held me in their grip and I had too many other books I'd bought because I "had to read" them to go picking up The Bloody Crown of Conan. Thus, when Conan #0 came out, it seemed the perfect solution. Finally, I could read adaptations of the classic tales in short, bite-sized nuggets.

Last year, Conan was in my top-3, but slips out this year because the latest issues seem to slip away from battlefields, swords hacking off limbs, and Conan whoring around and into convoluted magic and tedious monologues. What I'm saying is, the year started strong packed with scenes like this:but recently it's been a lot more of this:Regardless of my criticism, Conan remains one of my favorite titles and while Yag-Kosha (the elephant guy in the above frame) may have been a little heavy on the blabitty-blah-blah, I suppose if I'd been locked in a tower without anyone to talk to for years, I'd probably be difficult to shut up as well. At least the lead-in involved Conan fighting lions and a giant spider, evading guards, and scaling towers. This book is so good, I keep hoping Dark Horse will take on adaptations of some other pulp classics, specifically Tarzan.

Wow, if I liked Conan this much, just imagine what my top three books must be like...

Chris' Reviews 12/21

Big week, y'all. Big week that was unusually strong in almost every area. I am pleased to no end. Massive Spoilers Ahoy!


Well, at this point you're either reading this or you're not. (Way to go out on a limb there, Chris.---ed.) I happen to find the art excellent, the story intriguing, and the pacing perfect for a 7-issue miniseries. In this issue, Alex Luthor and Superboy (Prime? 2? X? S? Hell, I don't know anymore.) are revealed to be the quasi-villains of the piece, Paradise Island disappears at Diana's request, and several DC heroes end up strapped to a dimensional tuning fork, which sounds a lot kinkier than it actually is.

This is hitting all the right notes for me, and it just feels like a big event comic. Yeah, in the grand scheme of things, Infinite Crisis is comics comfort food, but hey: who doesn't need a little macaroni and cheese every now and then?

Best Moment: Batman has a nervous breakdown, which is one of those rare moments these days --- you know, Bruce showing an emotion other than "asshat".

Worst Moment: Donna Troy and the gang continue something...with the Giant Space Hole. I don't know most of this crew, don't care about the Giant Space Hole, and it's easily the least interesting part of this crisis so far.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Superheroey stuff that moves along quickly, advances the plot enough to make you want to reread issues 1 and 2 to see if you missed anything, and excellent art. It's nothing special, but there are far worse books out there.


Hal's old buddy the Black Hand shows up and gets all Black Hand-y on Hal, who has his hands full fighting the Shark, the Evil Yellow German Gremlins From Space (TM), and his feelings about death. The EYGGFS also do some more tinkering with Hector Hammond's already sizable noggin, so he gets an upgrade and we'll probably see more of him in the future.

It's one big fight comic with flashbacks to Hal's life thrown in there, and it's competently done. But that's not the reason I like this issue so much.

That reason would be Simone Bianchi drawing the comic, and it's PERFECT. I make no secret that I dig Bianchi's style, and I think it works beautifully in GL. From the surreally shaded ring constructs to the evil-creepy Hector Hammond, to the bright colors throughout, Bianchi nails every page perfectly.

To sum up: great art, ending to the current arc, fighty-fight-fight-fight mixed with flashbacks. Works for me.

Best Moment: "You think Egypt's the only place on that mudball that stole their language from off-world?" --- Krolotean GL team's answer when asked why they spoke German

Worst Moment: Did Hal really slice off Black Hand' hand AGAIN and then bury him alive? Dude. Hal. Harsh.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. I'm tempted to give it a higher score strictly for the art...but the flashback stuff interrupts the main plot and it seems like we got rid of Black Hand pretty quickly in 2 issues---that felt entirely rushed.


I'm not a fan of the X-Men. Haven't been in a while, though I do enjoy flipping through my Essentials collections and hearkening back to a time when the X-Men were cool and different and a team, instead of...well, whatever the hell they're supposed to be now.

That said, Ed Brubaker is doing a terrific job with this series so far, as in issue 2 we learn that the Cosmic Space Mutant Guy who kidnapped Marvel Girl and Cyclops is "old skool" related somehow (he knows Cyke, but doesn't know Wolverine), which we all figured anyway. Havok acts the idiot, everyone starts seeing personal ghosts, and Banshee has some news about the professor that he's flying over to the gang (until another plane gets in the way). It's a decent little mystery with some good characterization, and the fact that Banshee, Nightcrawler, Kitty, Wolvie, and Colossus are all back together in the same comic is like a warm blanket on a cold night.

I have no idea what that last simile meant.

I'm still tired of Emma Frost. Can we just get rid of her, or exile her to some island, or something? We get it. You're a sexy bitch. That's your whole shtick, Emma. Now go away. Please. Now.

Anyhoo, i've been pleasantly surprised by this comic---two issues in and I'm still on board, interested in the X-Men, and there ain't anything wrong with that, right?

Best Moment: There's a nice two-page scene between Logan and Nightcrawler as they're driving to the airport that It's not earth-shattering, not really important, it's one of those scenes that doesn't have to be in a book but good writers include them anyway.

Worst Moment: Banshee might be dead, but it was nice to see the lame butterfly-collared outfit from back in the day. The only thing missing was a speech balloon saying, "I wish I could help! But without me sonic scream, I'm of nae more help to them than a lamp post!"
(Seriously. Go track down the Dark Phoenix -era Claremont X-Men. I think Claremont was contractually obligated to have Banshee point out that his powers were lost EVERY SINGLE ISSUE. It's weird.)

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Solid, unexpectedly entertaining stuff.


I cannot review this comic reliably. I was so overjoyed to see an in-character Tony Stark, the Spymaster, the Ghost, the Living Laser, a kickass Iron Man scene taking out arms dealers, the email snippets that Joe Casey throws in every now and then to set the location, the Frazer Irving art, the in-continuity-ness of it all, the solid focus on Tony/IM, and the wackiness of Tony hiring a psychologist to help the Living Laser that words fail me.

Like I said, I can't review this reliably. Casey's off to a wonderful start as far as I'm concerned, though. Can't wait for the next issue.

OK, the title has to go, though. "The Inevitable"?

(And yes, I'm picking on the title because I can't find much fault anywhere else in this comic.)

Warning to those interested: if you didn't like the heavily inked Irving art in the Seven Soldiers: Klarion series, you won't like the art here. Plus, there's an odd pink/purple theme running throughout the book, so it can look strange at times. Not bad, but strange.

Yay! An Iron Man comic that doesn't suck!


SEVEN SOLDIERS: BULLETEER #2: Wait, so Vigilante was a werewolf? Whaaa? This issue touches more on the #0 issue that kicked off this whole enterprise than any other series issue so far, and I guess that's a good thing. I think. So far I'm underwhelmed with this particular character/series. The heroine as a literal "bombshell" sounds like the idea of someone who thinks he's cleverer than he really is. And I like Grant Morrison.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS: RECHARGE #3: Whoo boy, I'm loving this series more and more. It's a GL Festivus as Guy, Kyle, Soranik, 'Wog, and the two dudes from Rann and Thanagar spend most of the issue fighting (very cool) and insulting each other (also cool). At the end, 'Wog forms a GL posse to go kill the Very Bad Space Villains, which includes Fatality! Sweet! If the rest of the series is this good, I might seriously consider forgiving Dave Gibbons for Rann-Thanagar War.

JUSTICE #3: It's pretty good, what with the Legion of Doom going public with their scheme and Martian Manhunter gets the best 16 pages he's had in 10 years. Gorilla Grodd shows up, as does the Joker. Red Tornado gets some good screen time, too. All in all, happy with this, and of course the art is astounding.

Wow, what a great week in comics for me. Not a stinker in the bunch!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Hal Jordan Should Have a Fat Ass

The way I figure Hal Jordan should look like if Louie Anderson ate Dom Deluise and Tyne Daly in one sitting.

This revelation began with a conversation between Chris and I about Frank Quitely's cover to All-Star Superman and the fact he made Supes look a bit "pudgy."I countered that Superman really shouldn't be muscular. Think about how you build muscles when you work out. You have to break down muscle by pushing your limits, then allow it to recoup, stronger and bigger than before. Considering the yellow sun provides all the effort Kal-El needs to toss a Buick into the next state with one finger, how is he going to build bulging biceps or big firm calves? 99% of what Superman does, even when he's saving the planet from certain doom, is as effortless as breathing is to you or me. And if we're talking about Silver Age Superman, who could push the entire planet out of harms way then put it back when the kamikaze comet had passed, that percentage is even greater.

So, why am I picking on Hal Jordan? Because Hal's ring allows him to put forth even less effort than Superman. Hal doesn't even have to get up to get the remote control if it's on the coffee table out of his reach from the couch. Summoning his willpower and imagining the remote in his grasp will prompt his ring to shoot out a big green hand to grab it or cast a green bubble around it to float the remote back to Hal or construct some kind of elaborate slide worthy of the world's greatest water parks to deliver it into Hal's lap. Once he has it, Hal doesn't even have to push the buttons himself unless, I suppose, they happen to be yellow.

Hal flies wherever he's going, so he's not walking. He uses his ring for anything more strenuous than pouring a glass of milk, and probably uses it for that as well. Hal Jordan should be burning slightly more calories than the average coma patient and that's only because he moves his eyes around more than they do. Yet artists portray him as ripped. Even Alex Ross (who paints Batman as having a pot belly) shows Hal as a slim, fit guy with a distinct hint of six-pack abs.Let us not also forget that Hal is one of the more senior members of the JLA. Personally, I just turned 31 and know that it takes me about eight potato chips to gain a pound and about twenty hours on a Stairmaster to lose it. Hal Jordan could be the universe's greatest hero without ever having to leave his recliner nor put down his meatball Hot Pocket. When he's done saving Athmoora from a supernova, he doesn't even have to unscrew the cap on the tequilla to make celebratory margaritas--unless, again, the cap is yellow, but that would be horribly shortsighted on Hal's part--so what's keeping him from ballooning up like pre-rehab Matthew Perry?

I understand that DC has an iconic figure in Hal Jordan and don't want to portray him as Jabba the Hutt's fatter cousin, but there's an entire corps of Green Lanterns. I want to see one who joins up, then realizes he never has to get out of bed again, and becomes one of those guys who gets so fat he can only wear a bedsheet and the only way he can get out of the house is if the fire department cuts down a wall. He still manages to save millions of lives on a daily basis, but never again sits up under his own power.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Alackazam! Poof!

A week and a half ago, I predicted Fables was heading toward "what could be the best conflict yet" when Yusuf released a d'jinn. I expected a drawn out chess match with lives on the line at every turn and wondered why 40% of the story had been set up and feared resolving the d'jinn conflict in a mere three issues might seem rushed.

I was wrong. The d'jinn conflict won't feel rushed in three issues. Instead it feels rushed in one issue. In fact, at the end of #44 instead of wondering "how is Bill Willingham going to cram in all this story in just two more issues?" I'm left asking "what is Bill Willingham going to do for the next two issues?"

For starters, Prince Charming meets with Boy Blue, who hands over literally libraries worth of information from all the worlds he visited during the Homeworlds storyline. Unfortunately, as this espionage has to be kept secret, it can't be used in his defense, so a tribunal finds him guilty of stealing magic items. Prince Charming breaks the news apologetically, but Blue tells him to shove it.
Blue's given the choice of a year in the detention cell or two years laboring on the farm upstate and accepts the latter. As he leaves, he asks Flycatcher to keep an eye on Red Riding Hood for him since she feels like an outcast, which raises the question why can't she just go up and live at the farm with him? If he's her only friend and the farm is the place for exiles, what reason does she have to stay in New York with all the people who distrust her?

Meanwhile, the d'jinn is loose and Beast gathers a posse. For two pages, Grimble, Frau Totenkinder, Beast, King Cole, and others discuss how they are going to round up the Arabian fables, then just two frames later all the Arabian fables are being led away in shackles and hoods. Almost as quickly, it's determined Sinbad had nothing to do with the release of the d'jinn and Yusuf acted alone.

During all this, the d'jinn is in Baghdad, slaughtering all of Yusufs cronies. Huh? Last issue, Yusuf wished for the d'jinn to kill all the rightful successors to Sinbad's throne who'd take precedence over Yusuf himself, so it's clear something's amiss.The d'jinn makes its way back to America where it's supposed to kill King Cole, Prince Charming, Sinbad, and others, but Frau Totenkinder reveals the twist. Since she couldn't contain nor defeat the d'jinn, instead she cast a spell on Yusuf that caused him to think he was saying one thing when actually he was really wishing for the d'jinn to kill all his cohorts and then return to devour him slowly and painfully, which it does on the last page.

So... that's that.

Considering how much I complain about how Bendis will stretch an eight-page backup story into seven issues, it's odd for me to have to argue from the other side. Of course, I have much more faith in Willingham's ability to keep a drawn-out tale interesting. This issue read almost like Willingham decided to change gears because he thought of a better plot and wanted to get this over with as soon as possible, especially since the first eight to ten pages are rather slow and methodical, as we've come to expect, then everything gets rushed up to the end.

With two issues left, it's hard to imagine what else is left. It appears the Arabian fables and the European fables are all getting along, the villian is dead, and Frau Totenkinder's made it clear they've got the d'jinn situation under control even though he's still not back in his bottle.

Comic Goodness: 3/5. Kind of a below average Fables, but this title is like blowjobs. Even bad ones are better than reading New Avengers.

Damn You, Bank Account Elves!

I can't get my comics until tomorrow, because the Bank Account Elves have been at it again.

I hate the Bank Account Elves.

So instead of having any sort of meaningful reviews up, I've got nothing. Zip. No cool Christmas covers, no holiday-themed back issue analysis (now there's a vaguely creepy phrase), nothing.

I spent my vitriol on the Ultimates, so that's done.

I'm gearing up for the 1st Annual 2 Guys Buying Comics Awards ceremony, so that's cool. I hope I don't end up having to rent a tuxedo.

I'm just kind of in a mellow mood today, I guess. Apart from hating the Bank Account Elves.

Stupid Bank Account Elves.

Oh, I've got the second issue of my comic done. Well, the scripts are done. I still don't have an artist. I should start checking around on that.

Hmm, what else is going on?

Mark Fossen has probably convinced me to give Elk's Run a try.

You want Christmas covers? Both Comics Should Be Good and the Comic Asylum are counting 'em down like they were going out of style.

Franny over at So So Silver Age has an interesting tale of a real-life superhero and his trials with alcohol. It's sad-ish.

Jean-Claude Van Doom has some comics reviews up for this week, which just makes me mad at the Bank Account Elves all over again.

I finally got Blogger to quit choking on my sidebar links update, so that's a good thing! Updated and alphabetized!

I'll be back later with more nonsense.

Stupid, stupid elves. I want my damn Iron Man: The Inevitable. And Green Lantern Corps. And X- Men: Deadly Genesis. And Infinite Crisis. And Justice. And....well, you get the picture.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This Is The Part Where I Get Called Insane


So, I read Ultimates #9. This comic has been praised by many as over-the-top, crazy superhero stuff with big ideas and wild action.

Others I know who have read it come bounding up to me, saying things like, "Did you read it? Wasn't that awesome? That rocked! What did you think?"

To which I typically reply, "Yeah, it certainly was crazy." Then I make some indistinct noise about being late for an appointment or something and quietly slip away.

You see, I am done with the Ultimates. And this issue just cemented it for me.

Let me say right up front that it's not because I disagree (or agree, for that matter) with Mark Millar's Big Freaking Political Point that he's trying to hit us over the head with. By the way, Mark, you haven't let the contusions heal from the last issue. Spare us the anvil, OK?

Here, then, is why I am done with the Ultimates:

1) I'm semi-OK with Black Widow being the traitor. It certainly fits the character. I am most certainly NOT semi-OK with shooting Jarvis through the forehead. Ooh, so now we know she's dangerous...and by the way, if there's an ounce of integrity to the storytelling here (HAR!), Tony Stark should be immediately drilled through the skull, because she's never going to get a better chance to do it.

2) Thanks, Millar, for managing to conjure up a world in which we're not allowed to feel good for rooting for the Avengers. You've made them all patsies in the hyper-real Ultimate Universe, and while it may be "realistic" given the political climate, it sure as shit ain't fun for me.

3) There's absolutely no other way this can end except for Scarlet Witch and/or Loki to make everyone forget it ever happened, or go back in time and fix it, or whip out the M'Kraan crystal and just change reality. Not that this is out of question for Marvel, but I simply can't believe that Marvel has the stones to make this all-out decimation of America a part of ongoing Ultimate continuity. So I know that it doesn't ultimately matter.

4) This season started out promising, but as I look at it so far, it's followed a pattern: SHOCKING EVENT, talkity-talk-talk-talk for 2 issues, SHOCKING EVENT, talkity-talk-talk-talk, etc. Go back and read a few issues at random from this season, and you'll see what I mean. There just doesn't seem to be a cohesive plan at work here, even with the SHOCKING EVENT of issue #9.

5) I still have a hard time getting over the murder of Hawkeye's kid. That's just...wrong. Affecting, yes. But it sucked a lot of fun out of the comic for me.

6) It's become increasingly apparent that this comic should be renamed "Tom Clancy's Avengers", because it's completed the transition from superhero goodness to techno-military spy thriller, and hey: that's not what I need from the Avengers. So it's clear that I'm no longer the target audience. Heh. Target.

7) Why have they ditched the most interesting character (the might-be nut job Thor) ? That was a brilliant take on him. Haven't seen much of him since he's been locked up.

8) Finally, the comic is just too damn depressing. The Avengers are all self-involved pawns of the military industrial complex. Half of them are incompetent. The other half are locked up. America sucks. No one trusts one another. Everybody's got an agenda. It's hardcore, man. And I know that many, MANY 616 Avengers issues featured many of those characteristics as well; but with Millar himself taking it too seriously trying to Make The Larger Point, I feel like there's no real characterization here, just a means to an end.

So, thanks, Bryan Hitch, for some of the most beautiful art in the last two years. Thanks, Mark, for at least giving us the excellent (if late) Season One. Thanks, Marvel, for at least letting the Avengers get some play time in your Ultimate sandbox. But I don't think I'll be reading Ultimates any more; and knowing that Jeph Loeb is taking over certainly doesn't give me any reason to hope for the future.

'Tis the Season

The air is a bit cooler and all the stores are decked out in holly. It's that time of the year again: the time for year-end best of lists! Today while I was out driving around, I heard discussion of both the top ten movies and top ten albums of the year, none of which I'd seen/heard.

With that in mind, I doubt I'll be spoiling anything when I reveal 2 Guys Buying Comics will be doing an awards-style recap of the year past. I'm already struggling with a few points, the biggest of which is trying to remember what's happened between January and now. Did Boy Blue fight the Adversary this year or last? What did Invincible do prior to this storyline where he went across the universe to find his dad? How long have Yorick and the rest of the Y: The Last Man crew been off that ship and in Australia? Most of these questions could be answered by getting off my ass and looking through the last twelve issues of each title, but that would require... well... getting off my ass and looking through the last twelve issues of each title.

Anyway, on to a tardy review (just got last week's comics last night):

No matter how many times I see his work, I can never really decide whether I like Kyle Hotz's artwork or not. All my Google searches of Kyle Hotz refer to him as the "master of the macabre." A Google search of "master of the macabre," however, forces you to wallow through names like Edgar Allen Poe, Berni Wrightson, Stephen King, Ambrose Bierce, Vincent Price, and H.P. Lovecraft long before you get to Hotz.

I was prepared to declare this grandiose and arrogant, but, upon further reflection, I suppose there can be more than one "master" of a given craft. Universities hand out Masters degrees to thousands of people a year. Every year at Augusta a new golfer wins The Masters Tournament. Yoda, Qui-Gonn, and Mace Windu all were able to coexist as Jedi masters. I guess my issue is with the use of the article "the" instead of "a." Regardless, I can't say Hotz's art in this issue is necessarily "bad," but it definitely doesn't work for this story.

Andy Diggle is trying to do his best Garth Ennis and the opening scene almost works, though I'd say it ultimately reads more like Carl Potts than Ennis. Punisher is watching a drug deal go down on a wharf, kills all but one of the guys with a sniper rifle, and goes in to interogate the last one. He learns that a mobster who has gone deep deep deep into hiding may be coming out of his hole to kill another mobster who'd turned rat and gone into witness protection. So, obviously, it's a holiday tale...

Actually, where it gets its Xmas twist is when the Punisher tracks down a mall Santa who epitomizes both why Hotz's style earns him the macrabre master seal of approval and why Hotz shouldn't be drawing this book.The grey Santa's overbite just gets worse and worse and he looks less and less human with every page. He tells the Punisher that the witness protected mobster is back home to make up for his sins of the past by throwing a big Christmas party at the orphanage where he grew up. The other mobster is so determined to kill him, there's going to be a big firefight at the orphanage. Punisher in his desire to both kill mobsters and protect orphans heads up to the orphange with Ghoulish Santa in tow.

Oh, yeah, and Frank gets a Santa suit of his own.This seems pretty stupid to me. Why couldn't either A) the informant be one of the elves helping the mall Santa or B) the Punisher put on an elf costume? Santa and an elf makes sense, but two Santas is stupid. There's even a scene where one of the mob bodyguards asks why there are two Santas, so it's not like this thought didn't occur to Diggle.

From there it's standard--and seemingly rushed--typical bad Punisher story. It's stories like this that make people like one of my fellow Guys Buying Comics (cough... Chris... cough) think of Punisher as a one-trick pony. The mobster and his guys come to kill the other mobster and his guys, the Punisher blows up all the soldiers with claymores in the above mentioned snowmen, and the first mobster tries to get away, leading to the Punisher chasing him in a reindeer driven sleigh and giving us a line so bad I hope Andy Diggle is forced to have it tattooed to his forehead."No. With Heckler and Koch." Also, see what I mean about Gross Santa's overbite?

So, Punisher catches up to the guy, who drowns in a frozen lake after Punisher cracks the ice. He then goes back and kills the other mobster for good measure, dresses him up in the Santa suit, and leaves the body for the orphan kids to find. You know, because the Punisher is all about protecting innocence.Merry Christmas, kiddies!

Overall Rating: 1/5 and that's only because I don't want to stoop to 0/5's just yet. When Punisher stories are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they make Rann-Thanagar War read like Bronte.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

10 Random Thoughts

A few random thoughts on an otherwise quiet Tuesday night at Casa De 2 Guys Buying Comics:

1) Hawkman sucked last week. I know Palmiotti and Gray are doing the best they can given that they've essentially had Rann-Thanagar Pile dropped on them, but it's too obvious that the issue before this one was meant to be the end of Hawkman in his current incarnation. Oh, well. At least we get Walt Simonson on the forthcoming Hawkgirl comic, which --- mark my words --- could go down in history as one of the classic runs. Keep an eye on this one, folks.

2) Hey, Warren Ellis and/or Adi Granov: feel free to drop Iron Man #5 on us anytime, kids. I know, I know, it's not like he's a Marvel A-lister with a dedicated fan base and an iconic history, but the lea---HEY! Bastards. See, now I feel bad, though, because between Fell, JLA:Classified, Ocean, and Desolation Jones, Ellis has actually had a pretty good year. (That doesn't get him off the hook for Iron Man, though, and even Ellis isn't going to get me to read the New Universe revamp/relaunch/whatever.)

3) Is anyone else distinctly uninterested in the "I Heart Marvel" February offerings?

4) Finally saw the Blue Beetle preview over at Newsarama. Meh.

5) I am hoping and praying that Joe Casey's Iron Man: The Inevitable series lives up to my expectations, which are pretty darn high. I think Casey's one of those writers that "gets it", though, and the fact that we'll actually see Iron Man fighting some of his classic villains is a very, very good thing.

6) Back to Ellis: Nextwave looks...different-ish. I am sold on at least issue 2, though, because of this cover:

It's the phrase that pays: "NEXTWAVE GETS THEIR LOVIN' FROM YOUR MAMA!" I love that to no end. It's the exclamation point that makes all the difference.

7) Interesting piece by Ragnell over at Written World discussing the Infinite Crisis/big hole in the galaxy. Definitely worth reading, but unfortunately I think she's right --- the Anti-Monitor's going to show up here soon.

8) OK, I'll ask: what the hell happened to 616 Nick Fury?!? In every other Marvel comic for the last two or three months, characters have been making comments like, "You don't want to end up like Fury", or "Fury's not around anymore, and you know darn well why". No, I don't! Please tell me! Did I miss something here? Is this not a big deal? Am I just the last to know?

9) I'm done with the Ultimates. More about this tomorrow. I'm already 99% sure that you're all going to think I'm insane.

10) I confess, I haven't read All-Star Superman, despite everyone (but Scipio) loving it. I simply have zero interest in Superman, and not even my bias towards Grant Freakin' Morrison can stoke any interest in the comic for me. Maybe I'm missing out, but if the consistently great reviews hold up, I may spring for the trade.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Still More Iron Man Sad Monkey Face

Scanner's back up, so I have some shots of the Iron Man Sad Monkey Armor.

Why so sad, Ultimate Iron Monkey?

Oh, I know. Soon you'll be reunited with your GoBot Armor, Iron Monkey.

Ultimate Iron Monkey says: "SHHH! Don't tell Gene Colan!"


Iron Man Sad Monkey Face

Scanner's not working, but the cover to Ultimate Iron Man #2 is a pretty spot-on idea of what the Ultimate Iron Man Sad Monkey Face I mentioned in the review below looks like:


Thursday, December 15, 2005

Chris' Reviews 12/14, Part 1

What an odd comics week.

I have a lot to review, but it's not all new and it's certainly not all good, so we'll split this puppy into two parts. Either way: Massive Spoilers Ahoy!


Issue #3 of 3 came out, and thus endeth Steve Niles' zombie-horror take on the Dark Knight. I was not at all shy about my dislike of the first issue (scroll way down off that link). The second issue was a muddled mess, in which Deadman shows up to confuse the hell out of Batman (and the reader) for about 10 pages, dead people come back to life, and ends with Batman facing a mob of angry zombies.

This issue is not nearly as incomprehensible as the second.

This issue actually kind of explains what the whole series has been doing --- kind of --- all along, which is, you know, a good thing and a bad thing. Basically the whole series has not been Batman fighting Zombies in suburbia. The whole series has been Batman fighting Zombies in an illusory world brought on by the killer from the first issue in an alternate timeline. For some reason. I'm not quite sure. Which explains (sorta) why Batman has spent 90% of this series running, running some more, failing to save people, and trading stupid quips with a zombie.

So basically, Batman has been hallucinating the whole thing and it took him three issues to figure out that the key to fighting illusions is to not believe in them.

Pretty stupid for a guy who regularly has to drop-kick the Scarecrow, huh?

In this final issue, we also see Deadman, Phantom Stranger (who threatens to elevate the whole enterprise just by nuking an acre full of zombies), Zombie Jason Todd (yup), and Bruce's Dead Parents.

And so at the end we're back where we started, with Batman meditating on the afterlife and flying around on a crappily-drawn jetpack.

Best Moment: Gotta be the Phantom Stranger's entrance. Why hasn't DC learned that Phantom Stranger = Automatically Cool?

Worst Moment: Realizing that the central conceit of the story had played me like a sucker. Also, remembering that I hadn't planned on actually getting the last two issues but never bothered to cancel my order.

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5 for the whole thing. Poor, poor value for 18 bucks all told. Other outstanding questions: why was the art so crappy? Why was it allegedly set in suburbia? Why couldn't someone have dropped a hint as to what was going on some time around issue 2? Why doesn't the Phantom Stranger have his own series?


The first miniseries of this maxiseries comes to an end, and boy howdy does it feel (and look) rushed.

I was REALLY enjoying this mini, but it trips up at the finish line in more than a few ways. Let me walk you through what happens in this comic:

  • Two pages of Jim Rhodes building a fist that will one day become Ultimate War Machine.
  • Tony (now 16-ish) has built a giant Iron Man robot and a couple of Iron Man suits with helmets that make them look like sad, sad monkeys. I'm not kidding.
  • Howard Stark suddenly gets creepily angry and proprietary over Tony's tech designs, to the point where he looks like he's about to hit his own kid, which was WAY out of character for this guy given what we've seen so far.
  • Some dudes break Stane out of prison then kill him. Howard is framed for murder and sent to jail and Tony takes over the company. This all happens in about six pages.
  • We learn that because Tony's entire body is made of brain tissue (I know, I know) alcohol relieves him of the screaming pain he lives with every day, which, curiously, we've never seen depicted.
  • At the end, Tony jumps in the Giant Iron Man Robot suit and blows up a ferry full of terrorists he psychically spies heading down the river. No, I'm not kidding.

By issue's end, we're meant to be wondering who framed Howard Stark (it's Stane's son and Tony's future rival Obadiah), whether Tony will be able to control his drinking (he drinks regularly in the Ultimates, so, um, no), and whether we'll actually see the other two promised miniseries (my money's against it).

And the whole alcohol thing pisses me off. Why can't Tony just be a human being with a weakness for drink? Why does there have to be a valid scientific reason for him liking alcohol?

Best Moment: After 4 issues, we finally get to see some armor! Too bad it has a face like a sad, sad monkey.

Worst Moment: The point about halfway through the issue where Mark Bagley takes over for Andy Kubert. HOLD ON! I actually like Bagley, but Kubert's been on the series the whole time, so it's a jarring change. Plus, Bagley's Teen Tony looks like Ultimate Peter Parker's twin brother. Not his fault, but still.

Comic Book Goodness: 2/5 for this issue, but 3/5 for the series as a whole. Worth reading for IM fans like myself, but it's basically an extended origin story that I'm not convinced Marvel will follow through on. Plus, it's Ultimate, so it's not like any of it matters anyway.


I believe I may have mentioned that I thought the Madrox limited series that came out last year was pretty good. And so, I purchased Peter David's relaunch of X-Factor, having read nothing of these characters in years except for that Madrox series.

I am pleased.

X-Factor Investigations, a detective agency run by, erm, X-Factor, has expanded thanks to Jamie's winning a TV game show prize of a million dollars. To that end, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, Siryn, and some French chick I've don't recognize are staffing the agency in Mutant Town.

In the inaugural issue, Rictor (who has lost his powers thanks to Brian Michael Bendis) wants to throw himself off a building and Jamie tries to talk him down. Since his dupes are displaying different attributes of his personality, he makes a few of them and then chooses the optimistic one to go talk Rictor off the ledge.

Meanwhile, Siryn gets a snitch killed, causes a suicide, and blames Strong Guy for it. And House of M plot device Layla Miller threatens to be a part of the ensemble, which is the only thing that scares me about this book.

Oh, and that dupe talking Rictor down? Turns out he's actually a manifestation of the spontaneous psychotic part of Jamie's personality, and just as he's got Rictor talked into not killing himself, he tosses him off the building.

That, my friends, is crazy good.

The art by Ryan Sook is as good as his stuff in Seven Soldiers: Zatanna, which is in itself quite good. I do miss Raimondi's art, though, if only because he depicted Jamie a bit older and world-weary.

This book was unexpectedly philosophical, dark, disturbing, and hilarious. I'm on board.

Best Moment: Realizing that the "dupe" had duped us. Har! Either that or the wonderfully funny back-and forth as Jamie and Rictor are having this deep soul-searching conversation while Wolfsbane is screaming curses and insults from the street below.

Worst Moment: Layla Miller? Get your dirty paws off this, Bendis!

Comic Book Goodness: 4/5. Still retains the noir feel I liked so much in the miniseries, the characters are strong, the art's good, and a shocking last page --- geez, what the hell else do I want in a comic?

You Gotta Be Kiddin' Me, Pyle!

I swear I thought this was a parody or April Fool article or....or....something.

From Comic Book Resources, discussing "Annihilation", Marvel's 2006 Cosmic Event:

"The 'Annihilation Prologue' sets one the characters off on his path," Giffen continued, "We touch base with all of the characters that are in their own mini-series, but it hard focuses on one character and pretty much changes his world."

OK, kind of like "Countdown" did this year with DC and Blue Beetle.

"Four four-issue mini-series spin out of the "Annihilation: Prologue." "Super-Skrull" by writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach and artist Greg Titus; "Nova" by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning and artist Kev Walker; "Ronan the Accuser" by writer Simon Furman and artist Jorge Lucas; and "Silver Surfer" which is written by Giffen and features art by Renato Arlem.

Wait a minute...that's EXACTLY like "Countdown"! What in holy hell's going on here?!?

"Once the four mini-series concludes, the coda to the epic tale begins in the six issue "Annihilation" mini-series written by Giffen with an artist whose name Marvel is currently keeping top secret."... "By the end of 'Annihilation,' there are certain things that have been part of Marvel's cosmic landscape for awhile that are gone."

Oh, good GRAVY! If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Marvel is the sincerest damn flatterer I've ever met. Or something like that.

All of this proves three things:

1) The whole "Countdown" routine (one mega kick-off issue, 4 minis, 1 final limited series) must obviously be a great price point/draw. I mean, that's it, right? Because making sure quality comics were a part of those series sure as hell didn't seem to be the big selling point. (With apologies to Villains United.)

2) This whole Infinite Cri---err, "Annihilation" event bores me to tears, and it hasn't even started yet. Look at the characters involved, and name one that you'll fork over 12 bucks to read four issues about. Please. I mean it --- I need to know if any of these might possibly be worth reading. Help me out here.

3) See? I told you we'd forget all about that silly little House of M thing.

Ye Gods.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

*Knock Knock* Housekeeping!

Here we go:

1) A belated welcome to the Third Guy Buying Comics, Jake. Jake and I are old friends and he's got a whole lot of opinions to share, some of which you've already seen and responded to. As Jake astutely pointed out, we've come too far in our hoary 5-month-old career (and put too much work into making 2 Guys Buying Comics "one of the top 8000 comics blogs out there") to change the name to 3 Guys Buying Comics, so there.

2) Speaking of sidebar links, there's a whole pile of them that I keep trying to add to ours, but Blogger goes into epileptic fits when I try to republish after a template change. We're working on it, promise. (And let's face it; you're not likely to find anything new there if you're even remotely familiar with the comicsblogoweb, so you've probably got them all bookmarked anyway.)

3) The Comics Blogger Poll 2005 is up over at Crisis/Boring Change. I'm not sure you're even legally allowed to read a blog anymore unless you have one of your own, so chances are good (but not a given) that you'll get to vote in this. It should be an interesting hivemind experiment to see what (if any) general conclusions can be drawn about the opinions of the comicsblogoweb.

4) Continue to expect what we hope is a good mix of opinion pieces and reviews. Randy's back from India now, so we should get some more review work from him up here shortly as well. As always, let us know how we're doing, because we're narcissistic bastards who love to read comments. Now that we're fairly comfortable with a posting schedule, we're may even dip into memes, lists, and theme weeks! Hello? Hello? Where'd everyone go?

5) Finally, a big, BIG thanks to those who continue to read and support our efforts to hear our own voices. To those of you also writing, keep up the great work --- I'm truly astonished at how many quality comics blogs with their own distinct voices there are out there.

Here's hoping all of you have safe and happy holidays this year!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Peter David + Jamie Madrox = Airwolf

My friends, gather round the Ye Olde Comics Blogge. 2 Guys Buying Comics may have seemed unusually snarky of late, but just in time for the holidays, comes a spot of comic sunshine. I will give you, my friends, a gift of advice.

Tomorrow is new comics day. Take the three dollars you were going to spend on Action Comics, JLA, X-Men, and Marvel Knights Spider-Man. That's twelve bucks right there. Now take the four bucks you were going to spend on New Avengers Secret Files or Navel Gazing Black And White Orphan Love Stories or Tarot, and add it to that. Now you should have $16. (We here at 2 Guys Buying Comics are nothing if not good at math.)

Now, instead of buying those shitty -to- mediocre -at- best comics, buy the TPB of Madrox: Multiple Choice, by Peter David and Pablo Raimondi.

Trust me on this one.

I realize I'm a latecomer to this party, since the 5-issue series came out last year, and I just read the whole thing this morning (thanks to Jake lending me his issues). But GodDAMN was it worth it. I went and bought the trade today.

For those like me, who somehow let this slip under the radar, here's the idea: Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man, has decided that he's going to be a private detective in the tradition of the great film noir detectives. To that end, he's set up his own agency. When one of his duplicates comes back to him bleeding from a stab wound, he sets off to find the attacker, and...well, I just can't bring myself to ruin it, since not only is this a superhero comic, it's a damn good mystery, and you'll want to savor every plot twist yourself.

Along for the ride are Wolfsbane and Strong Guy, who are handling another case for the agency, I don't know where to start. As Kelvin might say, this series was the "dog's bollocks". I hope to God that's a good thing.

It's got all the elements of classic detective fiction: a crime boss, a femme fatale, a shady reporter, lost memories and slam-bang action. Throw into the mix the fact that Jamie's dupes have started having a mind of their own, which means that he's not entirely sure what they're going to be doing at any given point, and add to that the very cool idea that he absorbs the memories and experiences of his multiples back into himself (one early scene shows a Hare-Krishna looking dupe wandering back in after having spent a year learning Buddhism).

The writing is classic noir, classic David, and it jumps off the page. The art by Raimondi is terrific as well, particularly the action scenes. I cannot say enough about this book.

And I will freely admit that I couldn't have cared less about Madrox, Rahne, or Guido before this. Sure, I knew of them, and had read my share of X-Factor back in the day, but I never gave them a second thought, aside from wondering if Wolfsbane had her own disturbingly complete fansite.

After reading this series, I'm picking up David's X-Factor relaunch tomorrow specifically because I want to read more of David writing these characters.

You want something original in a superhero book? You want vivid 3-D characters that ring true? You want to read a story that thrills and excites from beginning to end? It's the action-mystery-thriller-comedy hit of the year! Well, last year, anyway.

Madrox: Multiple Choice.

I will be kicking my own ass twice daily for a week for waiting this long to read it.

Don't let the same thing happen to you.

Hey! You Got Your Conan In My Aquaman!

Apparently, there's some hoo-ha over Kurt Busiek's upcoming Aquaman revamp, in which it's retitled Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, doesn't feature Orin, and will feature a swords-n-sorcery vibe, complete with trusty henchmen (like the shark and the wizard in the picture here) going on quests and such.

Well, then.

Reactions in the Comicsblogosphere range from outraged (here), to funny (here), to apathetic (right here). I don't think I've seen anyone actively rooting for this change, but there are a number of people certainly willing to give it a chance.

(Side note: quit hatin' on Scipio. Anyone with that much passion for a character --- much less Aquaman --- deserves a pass when said character gets apparently shafted. I shudder to think what would happen if they suddenly announced Vibe: Sword of the Ghetto.)

And by the way, I'd like to praise DC for finally giving us comics bloggers a new catchphrase.
Sword of (fill in the blank here) is the new "Are you retarded? I'm the Goddamned (fill in the blank here)".

I'd like to point out that I don't give two shits about Aquaman on any given day, nor do I particularly have anything against him. He's just one of those heroes that's...there, you know, because DC has to have an underwater hero, and I think that if he weren't wearing such a loud orange shirt and green pants all the time then I wouldn't notice him at all.

That said, I think Kurt Busiek is ideally suited to heroic fantasy (if his Conan work is any indication), and Butch Guice is someone who has impressed me recently with his work on JLA:Classified. So I think the talent's there to make this work, even though my first reaction to this is "lame".

And as it's been said before on other sites much more educated and frequently updated than this one, we have exactly one piece of art, a title, and a Newsarama interview with Busiek on which to base our judgments.

I understand how long-time Aquaman fans (both of them --- har!) would be pissed at this turn of events. They didn't connect with the character because he was an underwater Frodo, they connnected because...well, you'll have to ask them, because I'm not one of them. But you get the picture. I know I'd raise holy hell if they canceled the Avengers, took the soul out of the classic characters I'd come to know and love, replaced them with a "kewl" new team and completely changed the focus of the----oh, Bendis, you FUCKER!

Ultimately Pointless

With the exception of a few good plot points along the way, for years there's only been one reason to read Ultimate Spidey: seing the Ultimized versions of established heroes and villians. Unfortunately, for most of 2005 even that excuse hasn't been enough to justify plunking down $2.50 a month. Ultimate Iron Fist? Ultimate Hammerhead? Ultimate Shang-chi? Ultimate Dr. Strange? Ultimate Jean DeWolfe? An Ultimate Hobgoblin that's pretty much just an orange Ultimate Green Goblin? Are any of those names really supposed to convince me to drop my cash?

This weekend I asked what readers Marvel actually thought were eagerly awaiting Ultimate Silver Sable. Seemingly anticipating the backlash of apathy... wait a second, can a backlash be apathetic? By it's nature, a backlash is an action--never mind, I'm getting off topic. Seemingly anticipating the collective sigh and shrug of the comic fans as a whole, Bendis fired a preemptive "lame Ultimization" shot in the first pages of this story's first issue.

Are you fucking kidding me? Because no one demanded it: Ultimate Omega Red! After getting this turd in the punchbowl, who's going to complain about Silver Sable.

Any way, long story short, Omega Red trashes a shipyard, Spidey stops him, the owner of the shipyard wants to know why Red trashed it, Silver Sable and her Wild Pack are hired to track down Spider-Man and see why he was there to stop Omega Red and whether he knows anything. They follow him to his high school but lose sight of him when he drops behind a dumpster to change out of his uniform. The Wild Pack swarm in and grab Flash Thompson, who is inexplicably hiding by the dumpster eating a candy bar in a very paranoid fashion.Let me pause there for a second. Obviously, in any other medium this would be the cliche of the high school kids sneaking a cigarette--or maybe a joint--by the dumpster, but for some reason the public schools in Queens are plagued by kids ruining their dinners with sweets between classes. Tooth decay is a huge problem. I understand Marvel doesn't portray characters smoking any longer, and I'm fine with that. However, if you're going to have someone eating a Milky Way and looking like he's smuggling nuclear secrets to Al-Qaeda, there ought to be some kind of explanation.

What was that I said about long story short? Never mind. Anyway, Flash tackles all the high-priced, highly-trained mercenaries at once and escapes. When word gets out about the kidnapping, school security gets beefed up, and Peter, who's carrying his uniform in his backpack gets nabbed by security for random bag inspection. Cue dramatic music to drown out my groaning.
Remember how cool it was in The Ultimates when the Hulk completely trashed New York? Remember that awesome big invasion of the Skrulls? Mark Millar reaches even deeper into his bag of tricks for this issue to bring us... a big invasion that trashes New York.

What bugs me more than anything is that we see huge destruction, most iconic of which is the toppling of the Statue of Liberty. The purpose of the attack is to topple America, the great Satan, and it's all made possible by locking up Thor, arresting Cap, killing Hawkeye's family, etc. Given all that, don't you think it might affect Peter Parker's life in some way? Wouldn't you expect that the Ultimate Fantastic Four might make some mention of it? Perhaps the Ultimate X-Men might notice? The invaders make specific mention that the Fantasic Four are "buried in the Baxter Building" and that the X-Men are out of commission as well. Yet none of these events will get a mention in those books.

Given Loki's involvement, I have no reason to believe that three issues from now, New York will be completely rebuilt, Cap will be free, Hawkeye's family will be alive, Nick Fury's arm will be reattached (oops, did I spoil that?), and only Thor will have any memory of this entire 12 issue run.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Slow vs. Dull

Vertigo comics promise a greater emphasis on storytelling. Unlike your typical superhero fare that requires some kind of whiz-bang action sequence every 10 pages, Vertigo can sit back and tell a tale, knowing action has greter impact when it's a contrast instead of the norm. While a slow issue of Ultimate Spider-Man or Daredevil or New Avengers or Powers or (fill in other Bendis books here) promises a lot of supposedly realistic dialog and character development, they wind up being dull and going nowhere.

Here, we have two slow issues of Vertigo's two best books, showing slow and dull are not synonyms.
This is the second of two fairly slow issues of Fables. Bill Willingham spend most of the issue setting up the conflict that will eventually be dominate the story: the Arabian fables brought with them a genie--or d'jinn as we're told they are properly called. Genies are almost pure magic, as opposed to the most powerful sorcerers, who are only about half magical. In short, unleashing a genie can completely fuck up everything beyond all repair in as long as it takes you to say, "I wish..." and there's nothing Frau Totenkinder nor the rest of the Fables' magicians can do to stop it.

The majority of the issue continues with the negotiations between the established Fables and the new Arabian arrivals. This is where the difference between slow and dull comes to light. The negotiations highlight one of this series's greatest strengths: its ability to flesh out minor characters and make them essential players. Beauty and the Beast used to just be a bickering couple, now they are the second and third most important people in Fabletown. Boy Blue was a janitor who discovered the true identity of and fought the Adversary with the two most powerful weapons in history.

In this issue, it's King Cole, who's been a doddering half-wit for 41 issues, finally stepping up to the plate (we actually got a glimpse of this last issue, hence his not being a doddering half-wit for 42 isues). Cole speaks Arabic and serves as translator for Prince Charming and Sinbad's negotiations, proving himself a great diplomat. Charming's "Shall we get started?" becomes "The mayor extolls your virtues and honor, wishing a blessing on your lives, and inviting you to sit" in translation. The major sticking point of the negotiations is over slavery, which is commonplace for the Arabic fables but illegal in Fabletown. King Cole easily defuses the situation by agreeing to honor the Arabic tradition of keeping slaves as long as they will honor the Fabletown tradition of hanging slavers.

Sinbad's agreement to release his slaves convinces his trusted advisor, Yusuf, that his prince is under some Western enchantment, justifying his unleashing the d'jinn.

The next issue blurb at the end promises "Next issue: The Twist" and since I doubt Chubby Checker is showing up (though what a twist that would be), we can be certain the d'jinn is going to betray Yusuf in some way while "technically" fulfilling his wishes. Among his wishes, Yusuf orders the d'jinn to slay Sinbad, Charming, Cole, and more-people-to-be-named-later and DC promises "there's no way to take back wishes once spoken." Willingham's never flinched when it came to killing off major characters in the past, but this situation seems ripe for one of those loophole situations where Charming points out that the genie could just do a really hilarious stand-up comedy routine ("Ha ha, you slay me, d'jinn!").

In the end, we have the set up for what could be the best conflict yet, and, in addition to the fun negotiations, we got a lot of good character development for Beauty and Beast and got to check in with Snow and the kids at the farm, but this is still a "set up" issue, and the second straight at that.

This is the first of what promises to be several stand alone issues focusing on minor characters we haven't seen in awhile, meaning it could be half a year or so before we actually get Yorick, 355, and the rest of the gang on their merry way to Japan to save Ampersand, a mission it seems they've been preparing for since early 2004. Seriously, when was he snatched? I'm graduating with my MBA in two days and it seems like he was monkeynapped before I even took the GMAT. (Nothing draws in an audience more than discussion of the MBA admissions process.)

In this issue, we touch base with Hero and Beth--the girl Yorick did the horizontal bop with at the church, not Beth the girlfriend he was trying to hunt down in Australia only to find she's gone to France. Hero was sent to give Beth a letter from Yorick, the contents of which we learn at the end of the issue and are pretty insignificant.

The story revolves around the fact Beth is pregnant with Yorick's baby, however, with all the men in the world dead, a group of nuns assumes its an immaculate conception. They are the new heads of the Catholic church, but--here's the rub--without papal concent, they cannot be clergy. So they are waiting for an immaculately-concepted boy to be born so they can appoint him pope and, in turn, he can order that women are allowed to be clergy.

In the end, it doesn't matter, because the baby is a girl. The nuns let Hero and Beth go and they ride off together, waiting for another time to inconveniently pop up with a story about labor or breast feeding or something else that will take us away from the main plot thread just as things are getting good.

Actually, this wasn't a bad story, though it felt like a fill-in issue, which is fine. I'm more concerned that we have a streak of similar issues ahead. I'm all for taking a month off to learn 355's origin and the history of the Culper Ring, but then let's jump right back into the primary storyline. These issues remind me of the Preacher one shots that focused on Cassidy or Arseface or Jesse's cousins in the swamp, only instead of being an extra story I can pick up as a compliment to my monthly dose of Y: The Last Man, these are the substitute.

What I Have Learned About Cheap Trade-Priced Black and White Collections

I am a huge fan of Marvel's Essentials line. I think it's good comics and a tremendous price, intelligently organized by story arc/creator run, and in a good format. Sure, there's no color, but quite frankly I think it makes one appreciate the linework all that much more.

DC's Showcase line is basically their version of Marvel's Essentials. I don't like it as much, though, and I can only offer up the following reasons, some of which may be unfair, but oh well:

1) Showcase paper is wayyyy too high-quality, which may sound stupid and elitist, but hear me out: when reading these old comics, I like the feel of old-timey newsprint and black smudges the way Marvel's Essentials has. Showcase feels almost too much like a glossy reproduction; Essential feels like I just found a batch of comics I never knew I had.

2) It probably speaks to larger history, comics trends, and all that, but Showcase so far has terms of the actual content that's published. I absolutely realize that it's still a young line, and DC's still figuring out what works and what doesn't---and that these things take time---but, man. After reading my share of Marvel and DC collections from the Silver Age---and I don't claim to like one company any more than the other---it's fair to say that Marvel took DC behind the woodshed during the 60s. It's not even close. I'm as big a fan of Green Lantern as the next guy, but go ahead and read the Showcase edition --- it's part (bad) military comic, part romance comic. Seriously. It's pretty awful. And Superman...well, either you like Silver Age Superman or you don't. I don't.

3) I applaud DC for making some not-so-obvious choices (Green Lantern, Jonah Hex, House of Mystery) to begin with and at the same time shake my head (Metamorpho? Green Arrow?) at some of the others. And yes, I realize that GL and JH were tie-ins to franchise revitalizations, but if that's the case, can a new Metamorpho book be far? Ye Gods.

P.S. DC, if you're listening, please release Showcase Presents: Hawkman ASAP. Thanks!

4) This is not to say that Marvel hasn't released some clunkers --- but the sheer choice involved with the line makes it easy to find something I'll like if I'm looking for something to take on a plane trip. Want just a memorable story arc? No problem --- Dark Phoenix saga has its own Essential X-Men volume. Looking for a specific creator? Check out Larry Hama's Essential Wolverine. (I know, those are both X-Titles. That said, I'm in sheer astonishment that Tomb of Dracula is up to its 5th volume of Essentials. THAT, my friends, is commitment to a format!)

5) It seems that Essentials prints more issues-per-volume than Showcase, but that could totally just be my perception. I have absolutely no facts to back that up whatsoever.

Anyhoo, let me be the first to thank both companies for even bothering to put out collections like these in affordable formats --- it's a hell of a lot easier than buying overpriced TPBs or seeking out issues on eBay, and it's gotten me to read comics I wouldn't normally have sought out (like Jonah Hex or Iron Fist).

I would also like to point out that coming this month we get Showcase Presents: JLA and Essential Handbook of the Marvel Universe! Booyeah!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Least Inspiring Sales Pitch Ever

I'm a little behind. I'm grabbing the last three weeks worth of my books tomorrow, which made me realize I have two Ultimate Spider-Mans on tap. Which reminded me they aren't just any Ultimate Spider-Mans! Look at the "Next Issue" plug from issue 85!Seriously, is that a selling point for anyone?

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Quarterbox Treasure

It's sad sometimes what you can find in the quarter box.

When I was 15, Fantastic Four #347 was a crucial element in my plan to be a multimillionaire tycoon comic book investor. According to Jeff, my boss at Atomic Comics at the time--who was most likely full of crap--Arthur Adams appearance as penciller was a surprise. FF 347 was either solicited with Walt Simonson pencils or the majority of retailers overlooked the Adams credit in Previews because Marvel failed to hype it. Regardless, his point was there was a smaller print run on 347 than there would be for 348 and 349, meaning in the future an issue of 347 would be a rarity that could pay for my kids' braces while keeping me chest deep in hot and cold running swimsuit models.

Instead, a near mint copy is now nestled between a water damaged Ewoks and a Web of Spider-Man with a torn cover. How could I not pick it up for a mere 25 cents, especially considering I didn't actually pay the 25 cents in the first place?

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lies and the Lying Shotguns Who Tell Them

I love Ex Machina for it's ability to balance real world political discussion with the super hero genre. However, Brian K. Vaughn gets away from what's made the book so great in this conclusion of a two-part story. It's not that this issue is bad, just different.

Mayor Mitch Hundred continues his visit with his mother, who has just revealed his father was not killed in an on-the-job accident as he'd believed all his life. Instead, she'd caved in his skull with a fireplace poker in self-defense as he was choking her for having sex with a hippie at an anti-Vietnam rally.

So Mitch is having a bit of a day.

I often describe Ex Machina as "The West Wing" with Matt Murdock as Martin Sheen (your hero of choice may vary). Fans of the show will understand the following reference. This issue reads a lot like that episode where C.J. went to her high school reunion, spent time with her Alzheimer's-suffering father, and hooked up with Matthew Modine. For those unfamiliar with the show, it wasn't a bad episode, but the West Wing and the goings-on there played little to no role in what was happening. It did set up some storylines to expand C.J.'s character later on, but for the week it aired, you felt like you were being cheated out of an episode of the show you really wanted to watch.

Mitch's mom explains how his father's co-workers, the men who dug the water tunnels beneath New York, helped her fake his death in a cave in, allowing her to cash in his insurance and save her the sticky situation of explaining to her in-laws how she'd brained their son while he was drunkenly attempting to throttle the life from her.

The moment is broken up when some thugs show up to collect money from Mrs. Hundred's boyfriend. Mitch uses his ability to talk to machines to learn the shotguns aren't loaded and steps in to confront the guys, pressing the barrel of one of the guns to his chin and daring the leader of the group to pull the trigger. When he's not taken up on the offer, he snatches one of the guns and turns it on the guys, chasing them off.

Mitch's mom gets upset at her son for doing something so stupid, so he explains how the guns told him they were empty and demonstrates by pulling the trigger.
Mitch can't understand how it could be loaded, but his mother simply explains, using the same reasoning for why she'd never told him the truth about his father's death, "It lied, kid. Sooner or later, everybody does."

The story ends with Mitch's mom agreeing to move back to New York with him and Mitch going into the old water tunnels with a student film crew making a documentary.

This issue set up some minor storylines that might balloon into something bigger later, such as Mitch being raised on ill-gotten money provided by the city of which he is now mayor and the on-going press speculation that he is gay being spurred on by his mother moving into his apartment. In the context of the overall story, it works, but strictly on its own it's not exactly the issue I'd grab to convince someone of how great this series is.

Best Moment: The flashback to Mitch's mom killing his dad. When he looks at the blood on his hands and says, "That a girl," it's downright creepy.

Worst Moment: Mitch's mom questioning his sexuality. If he's gay, fine; if not, fine. I really don't care.

Comic Book Goodness: 3/5. Tony Harris is one of the five best artists in comics and his attention to detail is great as always. It's worth checking out this issue just for the tattoos on the extortionists.