Monday, March 31, 2008


For the next few weeks (I'm not sure how long), I'll be cutting back on posting to half what I've been doing, only updating the Wildcats posts and the usual Sunday reviews (although maybe not on Sunday). The reason for this is the drive to finish my Master's thesis (a novel called "Infinite Future") by the middle of April so I can defend it on May 1. I really just need to power through as I have a slightly-too-big-at-this-point chunk left to write along with revisions and the requisite essay examining the thesis.

So, yeah, standard Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday posts will continue per usual, but that should be it for the next few weeks... and, if necessary, those posts will stop, too--but I should be good.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Sunday Open: Last Week of March

Do you know what today is? Yes, that's right, it's Wrestlemania. That has nothing to do with comics, really, but it's still awesome.

All-Star Superman #10

Things begin to wrap up here as Superman prepares for his death and Morrison revisits old ideas. Now, writers often revisit the same ideas over and over again, but they do it in different ways, which I don't see from Morrison here. The metafictional aspects of the issue are not much different from anything he's done before, which is rather boring. An enjoyable issue that didn't really wow me, which is pretty standard for this book (aside from that second Bizarro issue that everyone else--except Jog--seemed to hate). One of the problems is that this is the book that Morrison has been gearing up for his entire career... resulting in a lot of the same ideas and concepts being used here in much the same ways. You could call his book "Grant Morrison's Greatest Hits" and not be too far off the mark. Which is fine, I guess.

Gravel #2

This may be my favourite comic of the week. It's nothing that special or that different from what we've gotten with the character before--but I do enjoy seeing the different types of magic Ellis and Wolfer give us. As well, the weird politics of the major seven and minor seven is very interesting, as Gravel is looked down upon/feared for things the other members are more than willing to do. There are suggestions that because he's working class that he doesn't belong--that he's just a thug--but he also continually out-thinks his fellow magicians because of his thug-like qualities. The fight being fought isn't one of skill or power, it's of the ability to kill other people and William Gravel does that for a living, making him much better at it. I really enjoyed how he turned the horses against the woman here. Not a brilliant book, but very solid with no major flaws.

Star Trek: New Frontier #1

I have never understood why Paramount hasn't given Peter David a lot of money and had him head up a TV series with these characters. I've been reading this series for years (although missed a few books during the past few since I read library copies--I really should go back and buy the ones I don't have) and it's always impressed me and seemed like the next logical step for the franchise to take. Enterprise was a stupid idea, because who wants a series about the future's past? You can do that for an episode every once in a while, but as a series? Who gives a fuck? New Frontier is a mix of new characters and minor characters like Robin Lefler, Elizabeth Shelby or that female Vulcan doctor that would occasionally show up on Next Generation. The basic concept was that the Thallon empire has collapsed and the Federation is sending a ship in to make sure things don't get too out of hand. The captain is Mackenzie Calhoun, probably the best captain of any series--the guy is fucking crazy at times. For example, in the first story, the ship comes across a broken ship and takes on the passengers with the intention of dropping them at a Starbase or something later. They come across a planet that offers to take on these refugees and Calhoun has a bad feeling, tells them not to go. They refuse and go to the planet, at which point the government tells Calhoun that if he doesn't turn over some lovely Starfleet weaponry, they will kill the refugees. He tells them to go fuck themselves because he told the refugees not to go down, they didn't listen, so fuck them, too. In fact, fuck everyone, fire quantum torpedos at the planet--the government official says go ahead, because the rulers are deep underground and Calhoun will only be killing civillians. A few hundred feet before impact, he blows up the torpedos, seemingly giving in to the government... but then broadcasts the entire exchange, causing the civillian population to rise up and overthrow the government. He always seemed like the sort of captain Warren Ellis would write.

A dozen books later, we arrive here at the second comic series (well, Wildstorm did a graphic novel) featuring the characters. The issue begins with Admiral Jellico stealing a new experimental time-ship and the Excalibur being tasked with having to find it. Not much happens beyond that, but it's a good set-up issue and catches everyone up to speed on where the characters are. It's weird to see some of these characters drawn, though, since I'm so used to just reading about them. Damn, I really need to complete my collection of New Frontier books and go on a reading-spree. Even if you're not familiar with the series, maybe check it out as it's the best Star Trek stuff I've ever encountered... seriously, New Frontier is better than anything Trek-related I've seen.

Oh, and the art is by a guy named Stephen Thompson, who does good work. His style is kind of sketchy at times, but in a really good way. I'm particularly impressed with how he handles characters that were played by actors as they resemble those actors enough, but aren't photorealistic. Robin Lefler, for example, was played by Ashley Judd and there's only one panel that really looks like Ashley Judd, the rest just look like someone similar to Judd--which I prefer. I look forward to seeing how he does on future issues.

Transhuman #1

Jonathan Hickman's third series features him on art only. Like the other books, it's more about ideas than characters. There is a lovely two pages mocking the X-Men a little here. The form is mockumentary. The art is alright. I will continue to read.

Ultimate Human #3

An engaging issue that tells the story of Ultimate Pete Wisdom, secret agent man. I am a staunch opposer of all things military, but I felt for Ultimate Wisdom here. Wonder how the series will end next month.

Global Frequency: Planet Ablaze

Read this when it came out via my dad. Six self-contained stories in this issue tied together by the Global Frequency, 1001 people dedicated to making the world a better place by stopping bad thingsfrom happening. All good done-in-one stories that explore pet themes of Ellis with great art by the likes of Garry Leach, Steve Dillon, Jon J Muth and David Lloyd. I need to get the second trade.

JLA: Kid Amazo

Holy shit, Peter Milligan has produced an amazing Justice League story here on the nature of man and machine while deconstructing the League. Now, it wouldn't be out of line to say that some of the characters seem out of character, but that's not the point. Milligan is operating with a set group of characters that he uses to explore themes and ideas, while critiquing the concept of the group. Kid Amazo thought he was a normal college student until he learned that, no, he's a weird combination of human and... Amazo. The JLA observes him in the hopes that he will not become villainous, but the interference of the group is what turns him "evil." As the group has no real leadership and no hierarchy, each member acts alone on their instincts, which is how things get bad for the group. I mean, the only way to defeat Kid Amazo (who has the added power of being able to put himself into the mindset of each League member, down to every part of each's pscyhe) is to fight amongst themselves and, basically, beat up a schizophrenic man. The JLA are bad, bad people. This book is an answer to Morrison's run on JLA that explores why the team can't work and why superpeople have adverse effects on the world. Very, very good. Except for the art, which is done by Carlos D'anda... I am not a fan.

Sorry for being so brief in places.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #10

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Most of this issue revolves around Emp's role as a father--of Kenyan and of Spartan.

If you'll recall, issue nine ended with Emp telling Kenyan that he wants him to him. This causes Kenyan to react with shock and an unwillingness to kill Emp--something that he's seemed very willing to do up until this point. Emp delivers a monologue that hints more at Kenyan's "creation" and how he has been obsessed with Emp. A story of drugging up a Daemonite so that when Emp finally killed it, Kenyan could fly by so that Emp knew he was involved--but didn't take the time to kill a horribly weakened and fatigued Emp. Emp recognises that Kenyan's entire existence is wrapped up in rebelling against Emp, of working against him. If he were to kill Emp, he would lose all meaning in his life. He just wants to try to kill Emp, not actually do it.

Spartan, on the other hand, is the loyal son and, after Kenyan kills himself, kills Emp as requested. It is the final step in Emp's ascension to Kherubim high lord status and the process of death involves a substantial energy discharge--Emp assumed that Kenyan killing him would also kill Kenyan.

Kenyan ends his life in another rebellion--if Emp wants Kenyan to kill him, Kenyan will kill himself instead. He gives Emp death, but not the death he wants. In the end, Kenyan is entirely true to himself, mostly because he finally recognises the truth about himself. He sees how empty and shallow his life has been--how pointless the war has been.

This issue also marks the end of the WildC.A.T.S. officially. The war is over, the Kherubim is dead. Before he dies, Emp calls Spartan a "good soldier," because Spartan is not just the good son, he follows orders--however, he is not happy to do so. The energy discharge destroys his clothes and he tells Grifter not to stare at him before flying away. Spartan has ended the war on Earth by killing Emp and, in the process, eliminated all meaning in their lives.

The issue ends with a text piece on war and soldiers. It suggests that the real war, the personal war, begins when both sides are gone and the desire for survival is no longer primary. Emp and Kenyan, the two sides of this war, are dead, which means the new war with the self begins. Grifter and Spartan will discover what purpose their lives have now.

The Splash Page 8: New Avengers #39 and Mighty Avengers #11

In this week's Splash Page, Tim and I get down and dirty with Bendis Avengers comics. Well, not me, but the Skrull-me. He does a pretty good job and even brings up a few things I would never have thought of. See, not all Skrulls are evil. Maybe next week, a Skrull-Tim will show up and will show us that Skrulls are much better at comic criticism than us puny humans... and, hopefully, they'll continue to pretend to be human so we get the credit.

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: Wildtimes: Gen13 #1

[Another in my periodic ongoing look at lesser known Joe Casey comics. As always, at the end of the post, I will tell you if the book should remain forgotten or not.]

This comic was Joe Casey's contribution to a Wildstorm "fifth-week" event (for a while, DC would do event books that came out during the fifth Wednesday of the month so as to not disrupt regular shipping schedules for books) called "Wildtimes." The event was basically five one-shots taking Wildstorm characters and placing them at different points in history. Deathblow was put in the old west, Grifter in the 1920s, DV8 in World War II, Wetworks in the early Cold War, and Gen13 in the late '60s/early '70s.

Casey's story has the team rarely use their powers and have more interest in getting high, listening to music and protesting the government than anything else. There's not really a story per se, although a plot involving Bobby and Vietnam runs throughout. In the first chapter, he's hiding from the draft until the Gen13 kids tell him that the army won't use him since he's a gen-active. In the second chapter, he's in Vietnam. And, in the third, he's AWOL and protesting the 1972 Republican convention.

There are a lot of refernces to the time, both real and thinly-vieled. Like, there's Billi Fender playing at the Chillmore East (aka Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore East)--but there's also the Stones at Altamont. At the end of the issue, the group is in London and we get "Bowie" (to make the framing device work, the Hendrix stand-in is white, while the Bowie stand-in is black). One scene is particularly strange as Grunge actually takes acid, which surprised me a little. Unlike many Casey comics, there are no revelations or wisdom found during the trip.

This comic really lacks structure and sort of meanders without much point beyond giving a sense of the time--but in very obvious and superficial ways. I'm not sure what Casey was trying to accomplish here, because it's not that entertaining, nor is it enlightening. It just sort of sits there.

I did enjoy the use of the Teen Titans (each of the Wildtimes books had a DC character show up--although I could never figure out where in the Grifter book) as they hunt down Bobby since he's AWOL. Little kiss-ass brats.

Should this book remain forgotten? Yeah, sure. The art isn't that great and neither is the story. As I said, no real entertainment or enlightenment means it comes off as pointless, like no one had any idea of what to do beyond "Gen13 in the late '60s."

The usual Saturday post later today.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #9

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The second issue of the Casey/Sean Phillips run has two plots running parallel: Grifter, Spartan and Noir's attempt to find Emp; and Emp's confrontation with Kenyan in a casino.

The first plot explores the superhero element of the team as Spartan and Grifter stop a former supervillain from breaking into the casino's vault. Now, this former villain sold his suit for a device that will rip the hinges out of the vault--he has moved past strict adherence to the mask-and-cape nature of superpowers. So hs Spartan, who fights the entire time in regular clothes. Grifter, on the other hand, dons his typical mask. He is still trapped in a mindset that everyone else has moved beyond. Spartan, in particular, is on the path to evolving far beyond what he once was.

The second plot sheds some light on the Emp/Kenyan relationship, but not much is added. Emp is responsible for Kenyan's immortality and Kenyan is a psychopath--shown when Emp reveals that he's just a hologram and duplicates the effect, causing Kenyan to go on a shooting-spree. This also hints that Emp is beyond his old concerns for human life. He knows what Kenyan will do, but doesn't care.

This issue doesn't have nearly as much as last issue (or next issue), but drives the story forward and expands a few of the themes. It also ends with Emp telling Kenyan to kill him.

...wait, what?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #474

[Concluding my look at Joe Casey's run on The Incredible Hulk. Another lesser known comic on Friday and then, who knows what on Monday.]

This is the last issue of The Incredible Hulk and Casey begins it in a strange way: Matt Idelson phones Joe Casey who is stuck, not knowing how to begin the last issue of The Incredible Hulk. Now, you would assume that this issue will be metafictional throughout--or, at least, framed as such--but it is not. Nor is that the point of this scene: this scene is here to remind us that "...THIS IS THE LAST ISSUE OF THE INCREDIBLE HULK! MAN, I WASN'T EVEN BORN WHEN THIS BOOK STARTED..." One of those legandary books is ending and no one cared because, soon, John Byrne and Ron Garney were relaunching the title. Casey wants to remind us of how big a deal this is--while, at the same time, reminding us that he is just an interim writer, not necessarily that skilled, and not worthy of ending the series. And is he wrong? Casey had only been in the business for a year at this point... did he deserve to end The Incredible Hulk?

The issue itself is an odd one that does resolve some things. The Hulk (with Banner's mind intact) and Qnax are in the Watcher's (not the usual Watcher) stronghold while aliens attack. This leads them to this weird "House of Truth" where they must confront their inner selves. For Bruce, this means the death of Betty where he realises that even if he didn't kill her himself, their life together led to her death, which makes him responsible. Somehow, he winds back on Earth right in the middle of the Abomination about to escape after beating on General Ross a little. This leads to what we'd assume is the ultimate showdown: pissed off Banner-as-Hulk confronting his wife's killer...

And it doesn't happen. Ross pulls out some weird giant gun and stops it from happening. The Abomination escapes, which Ross also allows. Bruce is willing to let Ross kill him, but he doesn't because Betty loved him. Bruce is left free and ready for the next Hulk series.

The issue ends with Ross in the room with Betty's chryogenic chamber, admitting that he failed in avenging her death, mostly because he recognises that he also played a role. It's a nice callback to the beginning of the run.

This issue contains a slightly-mind-bending scene, a staple of Casey's work. It also features the total dominance of Bruce over the Hulk. It has a subtle link to classic Marvel stories in the sense that it is all about power and responsibility, usually a Spider-Man theme, but Casey applies it here well. All of which leads us to...

Should this run remain forgotten? No. This is an entertaining and stimulating run by Casey. It fits in with his early work and provides glimpses of what's to come. It also acts as a prologue (of sorts) to his Deathlok run, which is very essential reading. This isn't an earth-shattering, blow-your-mind run, but it is solid superheroics. It can also probably be gotten for a very cheap price.

Considering "The Man with No Name: The Good, the Bad and the Uglier"

First, some preview pages, so we all know what I'm talking about.

Something about this comic offends me. I know it shouldn't and I hate those people who get upset over things like this. What does it matter if they're telling more stories with these characters? (It doesn't.) Does it affect the movies? (No.) Since I'm not buying the comic, shouldn't I just shut up? (Probably.)

But still.

I'm not sure that it offends me as a Sergio Leone fan. I think it bothers me as a Sergio Leone fan enough that I won't buy the comic, but that's not really worth discussing, is it?

I think it offends me artistically. I look at what Leone's films did, visually, and I look at what comics can do--and it's two different languages and I have to wonder why anyone would be so stupid to confuse them. I'm not trying to pick on the artist of this comic, because it's not about him--it's the fact that Leone so used the language of film to craft those movies that using the same ideas and characters in ANY other medium is just... stupid. I wish I had a better word, but I don't: it's stupid.

Look at that first page previewed and notice how utterly typical, mundane and boring it is. Yes, it's a few shots of a town. And, yes, Leone would introduce a town in, quite possibly, a similar fasion... except there's no temporal aspect here. I could linger over those panels for the same amount of time that I think Leone would hold a shot, but it's not the same, because his holding a shot was purposeful and had meaning, while my lingering would be my attempt to impose meaning where there is none.

But, all of that may be bullshit and my attempt to rationalise my hatred for this project. Maybe I don't have a good reason beyond typical reactionism. I don't know. And, if it is just reactionism, is that a bad thing? Is it wrong to say "No, you shouldn't make a comic out of those films!" with no reason beyond a general feeling that it's a bad idea? Is there a sense of decorum that exists beyond words? Is there a sense of decorum at all? And, is simply not buying the comic enough of a response? Is there a duty to condemn such a project?

And, really, a "zombie" variant cover?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #8

[And so begins Joe Casey's masterful and epic run on Wildcats. Yes, I am very biased. But, who cares, join me as I look at the run issue-by-issue all the way through Wildcats Version 3.0. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Okay, I mentioned yesterday that I consider this issue to be one of the finest comics Joe Casey has ever written... and here it is one day later and I stand by my bold proclamation.

The issue opens with a one-page scene featuring Kenyan's assistant and an e-mail that he won't believe. But that's not worth discussing right now--the scene that follows it is.

Grifter and Spartan have a simple, four-page discussion that lays out a lot of Casey's run for us. Well, maybe not that far as things change quickly after these three issues, but this is an important discussion.

First off, it establishes the new duality of the book: Grifter and Spartan. Everything that happens after this first arc relies on one of the two. They are the heart of the book from now on. Grifter is emotion and violence while being completely human, Spartan is thought and patience while being completely inhuman. They are opposites and complements.

Casey sets up the main concept behind his run with Grifter feeling "impotent" over the lack of action and then later responding to Spartan's "THE WAR GOES ON--" with "WHAT WAR?! / THE WAR'S OVER! THE KHERUBIM... THE DAEMONITES... THAT'S OVER AND DONE WITH! YOU KNOW THAT!" This is not just a post-superhero book, it's a post-war book. We like to think of the WildC.A.T.S as superheroes because of their costumes and codenames, but they were, at their core, soldiers--and now there is no war to fight. In the previous series, after Alan Moore ended the war, writers didn't seem to know what to do with the characters and the book floundered in aimless, meaningless stories of questionable quality. Casey is embracing the ennui, impotence, and meandering life of soldiers without a war to fight.

However, Spartan does not care that the war is over, he sees new battles to fight and will get a new "war" of his own soon. Currently, he is following Emp's lead, but, soon, he will step out on his own and accomplish much, much more. Eventually, Grifter will also join his war and find new meaning there. In this conversation, while Grifter yells and acts out, Spartan calmly plays chess against him and says, "THE OBJECT IF NOT VICTORY; IT IS DIFFICULT TO OUT-MANEUVER MYSELF. HOWEVER, THE STRATEGIES EMPLOYED CAN BE USEFUL IN OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES." He is taking a long-view to their current situation.

In this scene, there's also a fantastic line that can only be a slam against Lobdell's writing where the two discuss Kenyan's plan in issue six and Grifter sarcastically says "AND WHAT A PLOT THAT WAS. I MEAN, COME ON--!" Remember that Casey's scripted that issue while Lobdell plotted it.

This scene also holds Spartan up as a comparison to Kenyan, both, essentially, sons of Emp. Spartan is the obedient, responsible son that is content to follow his father's plans, while Kenyan is the rebel, always challenging his father and questioning. This will come up more directly in issue ten, but is worth mentioning now.

Which leads me to the discussion scenes between Emp and Kenyan. They "meet" via holograms above Manhattan and Emp informs Kenyan that he's changing the rules of the game and, instead of chasing Kenyan, Kenyan has to chase him. And Emp can do this, because he is the one with the power in the relationship. Everything Kenyan does revolves around Emp and he's finally realised this (and will explain it further in the next two issues), and he's exercising his power. For what ends? We don't know yet.

Meanwhile, Grifter has tried to track down Kenyan and can't, so he goes to Noir, thinking that Emp has betrayed them. Noir hacks into Halo's database, which triggers an alarm... and Spartan. The three have a little showdown where Spartan maintains his loyalty to Emp until a holographic message is found, which angers him and they agree to follow Emp to Vegas.

Sean Phillips's art here is... I don't even know what to say. He draws pages with seven or eight panels, and never does anything look cramped. He emphasises body language and facial expressions, and, well, tells the story. Without Phillips's artwork, a lot of what Casey attempts to get across wouldn't get across.

Actually, it occurs to me, more than anything, what makes this issue such a big break from what came before is that this is the most un-WildC.A.T.S-like issue of any related book. Phillips's art is nothing like the art that came before and Casey's writing is nothing like the writing that came before. This issue marks a dramatic shift in tone and content that did upset many fans, while engaged people like me.

On Thursday, I'll look at the second part of the this initial arc, as Casey continues to set up the new status quo.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #473

[The penultimate (I love that word) issue of Joe Casey's relatively unknown run on The Incredible Hulk. The final post in this series will go up on Wednesday, followed by another "Lesser Known Joe Casey Comic" on Friday. Following that, who knows. Something else by Casey, but what? WHAT I ASK YOU!]

Not a whole lot happens this issue. Bruce and Qnax try their best to get to the Watcher and obtain the Ultimate Machine. General Ross fights the Abomination with a gun. What matters is the journey in each.

In an effort to keep Bruce and Qnax away, the Watcher uses various telepathic attacks, but Bruce thinks through them. Casey does a great juxtaposition by having the Hulk show up in the telepathic hallucinations, while Bruce is in the real world and figures out the problem. Bruce does what the Hulk cannot, replacing him as the hero of the book.

The Watcher is a little nuts, having had to watch his wife die. This gives Bruce a point of reference, which turns the Watcher to their side when he views Bruce's thoughts. Just as they are about to succeed, the aliens from last issue attack.

Meanwhile, the Ross/Abomination story is weird because it's two crazy-as-fuck guys trying simultaneously to kill one another and themselves. It's a weird dynamic as both are stubborn and righteous, while obviously guilt-ridden. Neither one does much and their confrontation ends, for this issue, with the Abomination revealing that he killed Betty, NOT Bruce. Ross couldn't look more surprised if Betty rose from the dead right there and then.

I'll examine Ross a little more next issue and provide the answer to the usual "Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics" question: should this run remain forgotten or is it worth tracking down and buying?

Tomorrow: the first issue of the Joe Casey/Sean Phillips Wildcats run and, holy shit, is it a great issue with lots of look at. I'll tell you right now that it is a strong contender for the best comic Joe Casey has ever written, that first issue of his and Phillips's run. Until then.

Seven Years of Januarys

Over at his blog, Tim Callahan did a post comparing the number of books he bought from DC (and then Marvel in an edit) in January 2002 to January 2008, noting that the number has increased quite a bit over the years (433.33% to be exact... well, not exact as to be exact, the 3 would repeat to infinity). I figured I'd do something similar, but I would look at every January from 2002 to 2008 and look at the four companies I buy most of my books from (DC, Marvel, Image and Avatar). However, because I've had some slightly strange circumstances and buying habits, I've listed books from each month in three categories:

Bought--things I bought that month when they came out.

Read via dad--my dad reads comics, so some books I just read when he bought them while I lived at home. Books read this way fell into two categories: books I was waiting for in trade-form and books I wouldn't read normally but they were free, so fuck it. You'll probably be able to tell the former from the latter thanks to the next category.

Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later--this is a category for trades that came out that month but I know I didn't buy until a later date, singles I got in trade when it came out, and singles I bought as back issues (probably because they weren't in a trade). Seems simple enough. Oh, for 2008 books, this may mean that the solicits had a trade that was released in February that I bought or issues are solicited for books I buy, but are late.

I think I will go through this year by year, so we can see how each company stacks up against one another. I will provide the links to the solicits, so you can check them out if you want. As well, in one or two cases, I couldn't find the solicits for January, so I went with February. I will note that when it comes up. Commentary after each publisher and then probably a wrap-up for each year.

January 2002

Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #2, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #600, HELLBLAZER #170, TRANSMETROPOLITAN #52

Pretty self-explanatory. This JLA issue was at the beginning of Joe Kelly's run, which I dropped within a year. I plan to get Adam Warren's Gen 13 run at some point. Same with The Establishment and The Monarchy, both excellent titles. You'll see Hellblazer pop up in that last category a lot since I buy it just in trades and have every run since Warren Ellis's in that form.

Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: ALIAS #5, FURY #5, THE ULTIMATES #1, UNCANNY X-MEN #402, NEW X-MEN #122, X-FORCE #124, DAREDEVIL #29

Again, pretty easy to understand. My dad mostly bought X-titles from Marvel--many of which made the jump to me buying later. I include Ultimates #1 in both the first and third categories because I only bought the first issue in singles, eventually buying the deluxe hardcover.

Bought: NONE
Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NONE

Um... sorry?

Bought: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: Warren Ellis' STRANGE KILLINGS #1

I'm not including the dad category for Avatar as he has never bought anything from them.

Bought: 4
Read via dad: 13
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 12

Little money meant not much actually bought at the time. But there's also a lot I've gotten over the years, which says something about a healthy trade program.


Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: SLEEPER #1, WILDCATS Version 3.0 #6, MEK #3, HELLBLAZER #180, HELLBLAZER: HAUNTED TP, VERTIGO POP!: LONDON #3

By this point in time, I had a pull list at my local shop. I tended to keep it to five titles or less and three of those titles are here (Fight for Tomorrow being a rack purchase). I still mean to get Global Frequency and Stormwatch: Team Achilles in trade/back issue form as both were great books. I didn't begin buying Sleeper until between the two seasons when I picked up the first trade based on all of the praise--and then promptly bought the remaining six issues of the first season. This month also marks the beginning of Joe Casey's brilliant final year on Adventures of Superman (yes, it went January through December strangely enough). Oh, and Vertigo Pop!: London is a great Peter Milligan book about growing older and rock music with lovely art by Phillip Bond and Warren Pleece--if you see the four-issue mini at your shop, pick it up.

Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NEW X-MEN #136, FANTASTIC FOUR #65

Only one actual purchase, but a big one. I remember picking that up since I had ordered it when it was solicited. I also bought a "Murder Me Dead" t-shirt that day. Not much jumped from "read via dad" to "picked up later," but I do mean to get Soldier X and the rest of the X-Statix stuff.

Image (February)
Bought: PARADIGM #6
Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NONE

Again, not a whole lot. I doubt January would have been much different, aside from maybe an issue of Rising Stars my dad got and I read. I really miss Paradigm as it was a really weird and fantastic read that only lasted one year before a temporary break became permanent. It was another pull list title.

Bought: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: Warren Ellis' STRANGE KILLINGS TPB Vol 1, Warren Ellis' SCARS #3

Up until recently, I didn't buy much from Avatar in singles, likening them to Vertigo where trades were a better way to read complete stories.


Bought: 6 (+2)
Read via dad: 13 (+0)
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 10 (-2)

There's an increase in items purchased at the time with an equal dip in items purchased later. This was around the time that the glory days of Jemas/Quesada were fading away, so not terribly surprising.


Read via dad: STORMWATCH: TEAM ACHILLES #19, WILDCATS Version 3.0 #18
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: BATMAN #623, GOTHAM CENTRAL #15, SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY #1, DC: THE NEW FRONTIER #1, WILDCATS Version 3.0 #18, HELLBLAZER #192, HUMAN TARGET #6

Wow, I didn't buy anything sold that month. Lots of stuff picked up later. Even Wildstorm's output was low--this was right before the imprint completely crapped out, basically. The Batman issue here is Azzarello's run, which I got in trade last year, I believe.

Marvel (February)
Read via dad: SECRET WAR: BOOK ONE, ULTIMATE X-MEN #42, 1602 #7, THOR #74, NEW X-MEN #153, WOLVERINE #11
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: FANTASTIC FOUR #510, SECRET WAR: BOOK ONE, THE PULSE #1, 1602 #7, THANOS #6, NEW X-MEN #153, THE PUNISHER #3, BORN HC, NEW X-MEN VOL. 6: PLANET X TPB

Only one book bought, which would be part of Robert Morales's run on Captain America. Fantastic run--something else worth tracking down. A rather large number of books picked up later, though--many of which I read my dad's copy of. Oh, and the New X-Men stuff gets two mentions in the last category because I bought Morrison's run in the three deluxe hardcovers. As well, I got Born in trade, not hardcover, at a later date.

Bought: NONE
Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: Wanted #2

I later gave my copy of the Wanted trade to a friend, so not exactly Image's month.

Bought: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NONE

Nor Avatar's.


Bought: 1 (-5)
Read via dad: 8 (-5)
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 17 (+7)

Looks like a lot of stuff was unappreciated at the time, because the first two categories are way down, but the last one is up almost enough to keep things even. I kind of remember that month and I do remember picking up an issue of Demo as well, plus some stuff from December most likely. And, as usual, some older trade and maybe some back issues.


Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: SUPERMAN #213, THE INCAL VOL. 1: THE EPIC CONSPIRACY TP, THE AUTHORITY: REVOLUTION #4, HELLBLAZER #204

Purchasing is way up with some great books there. I buy Planetary in "absolute" collections. As well, if you can find a copy of the Incal books, very good stuff. The Superman issue is from Azzarello's run. And, of course, Hellblazer continues to show up in the third category.

Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: ULTIMATES 2 #2, NEW AVENGERS #3, THE PULSE #7, CAPTAIN AMERICA #3, FANTASTIC FOUR #522, ASTONISHING X-MEN #9, PUNISHER #16, AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED TPB

Marvel only gets one title sold this month (two issues, though) for another in what I love to call the "Joe Casey fills in Stan Lee's plot holes" series. Peter Milligan was writing X-Men at the time and not doing that great of a job. The Beta Ray Bill mini was decent. Fantastic Four continues to be from the Waid/Wieringo run.

Bought: NONE
Read via dad: Rising Stars #24
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: Wanted #4 Death Row Edition

Last issue of Rising Stars, which my dad bought and I had mostly lost interest in by this point.

Bought: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NONE

January continues to not be kind month for Avatar (and will continue to be unkind, actually).


Bought: 7 (+6)
Read via dad: 7 (-1)
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 13 (-4)

An increase in books bought, but a decrease in the other two caterogies--but for a general increase of one book. Around this time, I was reading less of what my dad was buying since he tends to stick to characters, while I follow creators and what looks good. I expect that category's numbers to go down from now on.


Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: GOTHAM CENTRAL #39, INFINITE CRISIS #4, DC UNIVERSE: THE STORIES OF ALAN MOORE TP, DMZ #3, HELLBLAZER #216, HELLBLAZER: STARING AT THE WALL TP, LOVELESS #4

Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis make the sales here. Note that Planetary shipped only one issue between Januarys. Typical assortment of "picked up later" books, mostly Vertigo stuff.

Bought: NEXTWAVE #1
Read via dad: X-MEN #181, X-MEN: DEADLY GENESIS #3
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: ULTIMATES 2 #10, NEW AVENGERS #15, PULSE #13, THE SENTRY #5, PUNISHER #29, NEW AVENGERS VOL. 2: SENTRY PREMIERE HC, NEW AVENGERS VOL. 1: BREAKOUT TPB

Again, the only book actually picked up was a Warren Ellis title. Peter Milligan and Ed Brubaker on the X-books are the only thing worth reading from my dad's pile, while Bendis dominates the "picked up later" category as I got into his Avengers stuff after Civil War. Ennis's Punisher is the Hellblazer of Marvel, apparently.

Bought: FELL #5, GØDLAND #7
Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: GØDLAND, VOL. 1: HELLO, COSMIC! TP, GØDLAND #7

I buy GØDLAND monthly, but also got the first year's worth of books in the "celestial" hardcover, giving the issues to Steve Higgins (who I also gave the Wanted trade to, I believe). It's a fantastic book and I don't mind buying the same content twice if it means a gorgeous hardcover and spreading the love a little.

Bought: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NONE

Okay, it's beginning to look like I'm being cruel to Avatar, isn't it?


Bought: 6 (-1)
Read via dad: 6 (-1)
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 16 (+3)

Again, first two categories go down, last one goes up, total number of books goes up by one. 2005 and 2006 were my last two years as an undergrad, so it makes sense that the number of books bought each month was basically the same as nothing changed for me monetarily those two years. The "dad" category continues to fall. Let's see what happens when I move to Windsor, only visiting home from time to time.


Read via dad: 52: WEEKS 35-39
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 52: WEEKS 35-39, DMZ #15, HELLBLAZER #228, TESTAMENT #2, DMZ VOL. 2: BODY OF A JOURNALIST TP

Okay, of the titles bought, The Creeper, The Spirit and Teen Titans were random grabs so I could talk about them here. The Boys #7 was not released by DC, but I include here... well, to make sure my love of The Boys is known. On visits home, I would skim through 52.

Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: SPIDER-MAN: REIGN #2, PUNISHER #43 & #44

Blade and X-Factor were both "review copies" as well. But, here, we see Civil War actually getting me to buy Marvel books. Basically, Warren Ellis, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis are the reasons why Marvel got so much of my money.

Bought: GØDLAND #16
Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: THE NIGHTLY NEWS #3

The Nightly New later made my "best of 2007" list. And that issue of GØDLAND was insanely cheap.

Bought: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NONE

Okay, I have a point with Avatar... just trust me.


Bought: 17 (+11)
Read via dad: 1 (-5)
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 9 (-7)

Alright, I count 52 as one book. But, it seems moving away and making more money, along with shopping at two comic shops (one in Windsor, one in London) means more buying of current stuff--mostly Marvel. DC maintains a solid "picked up later" total with Vertigo books. The drop-off for reading stuff at home is huge, even considering visits back. I honesty lost all interest in most of what my dad buys (although there is some crossover like Deathblow).


Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: HELLBLAZER: JOY RIDE TP

The Hellblazer trade was in the January solicits, but didn't come out until February--a policy I hate as it's hard enough to remember what trades you want to pick up when they're solicited three months in advance, but DC has made it four now. If that helps retailers in any way, I'm glad, but I tend to forget about trades a lot easier now as four months is a long time to remember to pick up a book. Hellblazer is a series I always pick up in trades, so it's eay to keep an eye out for. Not a lot of DC books, only one Countdown-related one, which I only buy because of Jim Starlin.

Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: NONE

Amazing Spider-Man was gotten to check it out and for The Splash Page. Everything else is a regular book I buy. The "picked up later" category is understandably empty, but I'm curious to see how that would change in a few years.

Read via dad: NONE
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: PAX ROMANA #3, A RED MASS FOR MARS #2

Joe Casey and Matt Fraction need no explanation. The two "picked up later" books are delayed Jonathan Hickman books that I will pick up when those issues come out.

Bought: GRAVEL #0
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: BLACK SUMMER #6, DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #7

Those last two books are running late, but I buy them. Gravel I'm also buying monthly, having picked up the previous series in trades (except for the first two minis, which I bought as they came out all those years ago).


Bought: 19 (+2)
Read via dad: 0 (-1)
Got at a later date in trade or as back issue/trade bought later: 5 (-4)

I counted Amazing Spider-Man as one like 52 because I felt like it. It's strange that the "picked up later" category has so many books in it--four late titles and one advance solicit. This was right at the beginning of my doing The Splash Page with Tim, which meant going to the shop every week, which will naturally increase the purchase numbers.

What does it all mean?

Well, it's obvious that I follow certain creators as they make up the bulk of the "purchased" and "picked up later" categories. Over time, I grew less willing to even spend time reading books I had no interest in for free from my dad's pile--and, now, when I visit home, I don't read any of them since I have enough money to buy what I want.

I included Avatar throughout because it really is the publisher I buy the most books from after the other three (and Image isn't exactly kicking ass either). But including those consecutive years of nothing only highlights that with a company whose books you buy exclusively for a creator or two and, almost always (up until recently) in trade, each month really is hit-or-miss. The same for Image. I'm sure I could go through those years and find a whole bunch of stuff I bought (at some point) from them. Really, I guess including Avatar and Image really highlights the sheer pointlessness of this sort of survey for smaller companies. You can see trends for Marvel and DC quite easily here, but for Image and Avatar, you would need a month-by-month analysis to really see anything (and, even then, you probably wouldn't get that much--at least not with my buying habits).

DC especially benefitted from their books being the bookstore here at the University of Windsor. A lot of the "picked up later" stuff was me browsing there, wanting to get something and really just having DC books to choose from.

I do find it interesting that I'm more willing to buy singles now than when I was younger. Is it just a steady paycheque that does that, or has my mindset changed as well? If you'll recall, a few years before this study begins, trades were the hot new thing and, being a big fan of Warren Ellis, one of the format's most vocal propponents, I naturally followed his lead (which is why his books dominate the early "picked up later" lists). But, now, I think I understand that the best way to make sure a book you enjoy continues is to buy it regularly. As well, Marvel's trade prices are insane (the recent parity of the Canadian dollar has helped as most shops sell at the American price), while DC's have always been much more reasonable. On the other hand, I did enjoy Marvel's deluxe hardcovers, which I bought New X-Men, X-Force and Waid/Wieringo's Fantastic Four in (and continues to be my format of choice for Ennis's Punisher). Even now, though, I'm much more likely to pick up a DC trade than a Marvel one, because of price.

But, for the hell of it, here is the total number of books read each January of the year, so we can see if there's an actual increase/decrease of quality (books in multiple categories will only count once):

2002: 24
2003: 27 (+3)
2004: 22 (-5)
2005: 25 (+2)
2006: 26 (+1)
2007: 26 (+0)
2008: 24 (-2)

Amazingly consistent with an average of 24.857 books read per month and a median of 24.5 books read per month. I imagine 2007 and 2008 will go up if I look back in a few years (2008 in particular as there are a few Vertigo titles that would wind up in the "picked up later" category--same with Punisher at Marvel). It also seems very clear that my willingness to try out books for free thanks to my dad has been replaced by my willingness to try out a book by paying for it, which strikes me as odd, actually.

I am really surprised at how steady I am per month as far as reading comics go--or buying comics from a single month in single or trade. Does this mean that, for me, each month offers 24.857 comics worth reading eventually? Does everyone have their number? Huh.

Tomorrow (or, later today, to be accurate), I will look at The Incredible Hulk #473 as part of my overall analysis of Joe Casey's run on the book. Until then.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Sunday Open: Third Week of March

Did you know that if you compared the number of comics I bought in January 2002 from Marvel and DC to the number I bought in January 2008, there is a 1400% increase? For Tim Callahan, looking just at DC, the increase is 433.33%. It's official: comics are somewhere from 433.33% to 1400% better now than six years ago. Truly a Golden Age we live in now. But let's get to some of these awesome, awesome comics now...

The Death of the New Gods #7

Okay, so it wasn't Himon that was killing everyone, it was the Infinity Man. Because Himon's already on the Second Wall, meaning he was already killed... and, yes, my valued reader, I checked previous issues and there were no Himon sightings, although Takion did see Himon on the Wall, but was then killed back in issue three. Not that any of that is really that important, because the best part of this issue is when Scott Free confronts the newly whole Source and realises that the god he's worshipped all of his life didn't care at all--and that the tenets of the religion were false. He realises his god killed his wife to manipulate him into using the Anti-Life Equation just as the Source wanted. It's some heavy shit and fits perfectly into Starlin's overall body of work where so-called "gods" are always revealed to be petty and corrupt like "mere mortals," only interested in their own goals. Free requests death, as does Metron--who also feels betrayed, particularly at the nature of the universe.

The issue ends with the Source going after Darkseid, who swallows some potion that makes him fiery and, most likely, tough as fuck. Should be a good final issue, leading into Final Crisis. I wonder how much of what Starlin's done here was dictated by what Morrison is going to do with the characters. Although, if these forms are just avatars, what does it matter?

Detective Comics #842

Read a review of this issue a couple of weeks back and it mentioned that Peter Milligan did a decent job here, so what the hell let's buy us a Batman comics right. It's a decent issue that acts as a bit of a follow-up to the recent "Resurrection of R'as al Ghul" storyline, focusing on the armour Batman got from Talia in it. Turns out the armour is cursed and Batman tries to find out what's the story--and even when he learns it, he still wears it to prove that he is more powerful than any cursed armour. A weird little story with some great art by Dustin Nguyen, whose work I've long enjoyed.

Ghost Rider #21

Well, two issues in and Jason Aaron has quickly made this a "must read" book with his combination of gothic, grindhouse and, well, let's go with Milton. Ghost Rider learns more about the impending war in Heaven and his role in it--he also takes on some pyscho nurses and gets ready to fuck up a ghost highway.

I have only two little complaints:

1. The war in Heaven shit always bothers me, only because not enough is ever defined about the "God" character in shit like this. If this God is omnipotent and omniscient, what's the big deal?

2. The deputy's little moment in the morgue... it's very mechanical and a little too out there.

Otherwise, a great comic.

The Immortal Iron Fist #13

Another solid issue--the dialogue gets a little cute with the references to Danny having a plan and the (lack of) confidence that inspires... and the "Your revolution has arrived" getting the response is does. Also, David Aja only provides three pages of art, which is a shame, but Tonci Zonjic's fill-in art is pretty good and matches the tone/style of Aja well enough. I'm really looking forward to how this storyline is going to end--it's becoming clearer as the various threads come together. And that last page is one of those fantastic last pages.

Thor #7

Another good issue from Straczynski who is really hitting his stride on this book, focusing on the recreation of Asgard rather than typical superheroics. The meetings of Thor and Odin here is really well done and examines the father/son dynamic in an interesting fashion. The Don Blake stuff is only marginally interesting right now, but we know very little about it, so who knows where it will go. Marko Djurdjevic's art is decent.

War is Hell: The First Flight of the Phantom Eagle #1

Quite a mouthful, that title is.

I've somehow managed to miss all of Garth Ennis's previous war comics, excluding Punisher: Born (and any flashbacks in Punisher or Preacher). I really need to pick up some trades, don't I? But, I'm not missing out on this series, which looks promising and impresses me just for the fact that it takes place during the first World War when air fights were new and very different from what we're used to. Ennis uses that to his advantage in one scene where Kaufman (the eponymous Phantom Eagle) kills a German pilot by blowing his head off... and can see it quite clearly in all its graphic detail because the pilots flew out in the open air. Howard Chaykin's art still doesn't wow me, but some pages are amazingly beautiful, I'll admit.

Skrull Kill Krew

Ah, the nearly forgotten "classic" from Grant Morrison and Mark Millar... finally, she is mine and I have read her and... yeah, it's not that good. No, really, this is very, very mediocre with a few moments of brilliance. The concept is that after the Kree-Skrull War, the US military turned three Skrulls back into cows (like Reed Richards had done) and instead of letting them graze, they slaughtered them and they became hamburgers. Their DNA carries a virus for humans that some are immune to, some die from right away, and some gain the ability to see Skrulls in their natural form and shapeshift. They band together, call themselves the Skrull Kill Krew and, well, kills Skrulls. Not much else to it than that. The characters are broadly drawn, the plots are superficial and it's easy to see why this book only lasted five issues. If Grant Morrison and Mark Millar weren't who they are, I doubt this book would have been collected by Marvel.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pre-Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #7

[Concluding the build-up to Joe Casey's run on Wildcats. Yes, sir, this is indeed the last Scott Lobdell-penned issue. Starting Tuesday, it's nothing but Joe Casey (with the fantastic Sean Phillips on art). New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

I thought about it and wanted to get the Lobdell stuff out of the way and start clean next week. I read issue seven and realised, yeah, it wasn't really worth getting its own day.

This issue accomplishes one thing worthwhile: it kills off Pike, some lame villain that vowed to kill a WildC.A.T. for some reason. He tries to kill Warblade in New York, but just kills his fiancee. Skip ahead six months and the two battle it out in Sarajevo after Warblade kills some people terrorising the innocent. This involves such witty dialogue as:

"One gurgle for yes, two gurgles for no."

And the baffling command by Warblade to the town's people that before they go, they "PAINTS THE TOWN RED!" which he feels the need to scream and become full-on Warblade to command.

In the end, Warblade kills Pike by using his control over every molecule--which is nearly clever.

The art is provided by Carlos Meglia and the less said about it there better. The arm hair he draws looks like little pieces of macaroni taped into place. It's weird--and so fucking typical of Wildstorm.

Since this issue finishes up Lobdell's tenure on the book (excluding a special that looked at Emp's transformation from "little person" to "troll"--and the "Golden Age" special from the crossover with the X-Men, which also featured Charest on art and introduced Kenyan), I should probably say a few words about the whole thing. What comes to mind is a line from "Make it Wit Chu" by the Queens of the Stone Age (who I'm currently listening to, coincidentally): "Sometimes the same is different, but, mostly, it's the same." That's Lobdell and Charest's run all over--promise of change, promise of new, same old bullshit, in more ways than one. The most notable is the artist who couldn't meet deadlines, but, also, a book that was artist-driven, resulting in horrible, cliched stories of little merit. It's a weird paradox to have an artist-driven book involving an artist who can't meet a deadline, or deliver work that warrants being the driving force. Lobdell talked a good game before taking over; he spoke of new ideas, a bold new direction and delivered none of it.

Bring on Joe Casey and Sean Phillips, I say.

Semi-Pre-Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #6

[Continuing the epic build-up to when Joe Casey took over Wildcats and fucking tore shit up. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Once again, Joe Casey puts the words into the mouths of the characters here after Lobdell told them what to do. However, this issue is a bit better than the previous one, if only for one line:


Now, I want to read that line as Casey's criticism of the plot here which has Grifter chasing Kenyan through the streets of New York while Spartan steals a jet to further help take Kenyan down. That's pretty much all that happens, actually. But, as I've said before, it does set up Casey's run... or, at least, the first three issues of it in this case. Especially when Emp tells Grifter not to kill Kenyan out in the open. Why would he say that, dear reader? Why?

Remember how issue four had that awesome letter taking the book to task? Well, this issue's letter page has a couple of responses, both that felt the need to include all of the effort and "heart" put into making comics--which, I'm sorry, are not relevent when discussing the quality of books. Somewhere along the lines, we all got the idea that loving the characters and being a true fan actually meant something, but it doesn't. All it means is that someone's got an excuse to produce bad comics.

Ugh. I don't know what else to say. I'm actually tempted to just include my assessment of issue seven here right now so that we can get to the Casey run sooner. But, that would also mean reading issue seven right now, which seems like a bad idea. It's a Warbalde-centric issue that really does nothing and is barely referenced during Casey's run. But, hey, maybe I'll come up with something to say on Tuesday.

The Splash Page 7: Captain American #36

Holy shit, I forgot to tell you all that, yes, indeed there is a new Splash Page up where Tim Callahan and I discuss Captain America #36. He plays the role of "The American" while I play the role of "The Canadian" in a battle of words where the fate of two nations hangs in the balance. It's the red, white and blue versus the red and white... will the extra colour make all the difference? Will one of us finally verbally bitch-slap the other? What the fuck am I talking about? None of that happens in this week's column as Tim and I are totally in love with one another (intellectually, not homosexually... yet) and would never think of starting a war of words that would surely destroy us both.

Um... go red the column. I quote Raymond Chandler and who doesn't love him?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #472

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on The Incredible Hulk. I would have posted sooner, but I spent a lovely day of reading (The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster), music (four albums by Sarah Slean) and blowing my nose every twelve seconds. Plus, because it's Good Friday, the Subway near my house was closed. What's up with that? It was snowing, though, which made the walk pleasant. Not that any of that really anything to do with this comic. New posts Monday and Wednesday, but that does it for this run. On Friday, I'll have another lesser known Joe Casey comic.]

This issue begins the wind down of Casey's run as Bruce Banner encounters Qnax, the Xanatarean, some pink alien the Hulk has fought in the past (back in Tales to Astonish #73-74), but is now friendly. Yay. He needs to get back to his home planet to stop a Watcher and his "Ultimate Machine," which could fuck shit up big time. Bruce, being a good guy, helps him out. They use some sort of universal transporter to go take on the Watcher, but, before they leave, Bruce purposefully transforms into the Hulk and retains his intelligence. After they go through the machine, Qnax finds the Hulk mindless and destroying stuff, but he subdues him and Bruce regains control and transforms into himself. They find that they are on some strange planet that is near the Watcher's planet--one that is pissed off and ready to blow that bald-headed bastard to hell.

Meanwhile, Devlin Deangelo has sought out General Ross since they both want to see the Hulk dead. They use a tracker that Deangelo's people have created to track the Hulk... to a small town that he has destroyed. The army arrives, but Ross goes in all alone, because he is a crazy old man that no one has the good sense to punch in the face until he stops acting so goddamn crazy. But, he doesn't find the Hulk, he instead finds the Abomination.

This issue has a few trademark Caseyisms, including the return of Qnax all the way from Tales to Astonish--Casey has a fondness for older villains (like Zzzax, used in Cable) and also subverts expectations by making this one an ally. As the Hulk/Bruce evolves beyond older behaviours, so do his villains. Since Bruce is now more capable and heroic without depending on the Hulk, old rivals can no longer be so two-dimensional. (Does that sound convincing? I am making this up as I go, you know.)

Bruce's control over the Hulk here isn't exactly new, but does further Casey's strengthening of Bruce and takes it to its logical conclusion: Bruce and Hulk being the same person 100%. Although, the lack of control means the evolution isn't complete yet.

Ross's confrontation with the Abomination will prove interesting as it will highlight, in a few issues, the entire problem with Ross's character--and how misguided he's always been with his Hulk-obsession. Casey will also show that the character is unable to transcend his roots, unlike the title character.

The Hulk has always been a book about evolution, characterised by the various Hulk variants (and more directly discussed in Warren Ellis's current Ultimate Human mini-series), and Casey explores that idea throughout the run in various ways. Firstly, Bruce's evolution from the weak alter-ego of the Hulk to a more heroic and confident character that controls the Hulk aspect of his personality. Qnax has also evolved from his original Stan Lee roots. The Circus of Crime did not evolve and suffered as a result, while the Ringmaster did evolve and, as we see in Deathlok, prospers. General Ross does not evolve; he does not grow, he does not learn--he is the ultimate example of stasis (along with his long-lost "cousin" J. Jonah Jameson) and obsession.

But enough of that, I don't want to blow my wad when there are two more issues to go.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Semi-Pre-Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #5

[Continuing my look at the build-up to Joe Casey's run on Wildcats--except, waitaminute, his name appears in this issue's credits. That's right, loyal readers, Casey scripts this issue (along with issue six). Will that make up for Scott Lobdell's piss-poor plots? Keep on reading! New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Not only has Casey joined the book, for one issue only Bryan Hitch is on art. This back when Hitch was blowing people's minds on The Authority and, obviously, his fill-in here is a favour to Wildstorm--but, really, he was doing The Authority monthly AND a fill-in on Wildcats, where I can assume he caught Travis Charest's deadline-itis. But, enough of my lame "wit," there's a comic to be discussed...

Remember how last issue had Zealot gunned down and dead? Yeah, this issue reveals that she's alive. A much more effective story would have to either distanced the two issues or combined them into one, because all this does is make last issue look worthless. But, that's Lobdell's doing--ah, so is the idea that Zealot is being hunted by various splinter sects of the Coda, a concept that Casey will alter into Zealot hunting down every member of the Coda and killing them. Although, it is ambiguous if that's what she's already doing. It's hard to say, but it is hinted at--only in the dialogue, which is Casey's. Perhaps Casey was already laying the seeds for his run, which was almost certainly determined by this point.

Most of the dialogue, however, doesn't rise that far about Lobdell's usual pap. However, I have to wonder if that was purposeful--is it possible that Casey, in an effort to keep the book consistent, attempted to imitate Lobdell? Or was there no way to do better with the plot written? Or did Casey just deliver some mediocre work? It's hard to say for sure. I'm inclined to say that Casey fails here, rather than place the blame elsewhere. We've seen that Casey is certainly capable of churning out crap and a scripting job seems like one of those places where it's almost hard not to.

There's also a scene between Grifter and Spartan, but it's of no major consequence beyond continuing the weird dynamic they have, which will make up a big part of Casey's run. Although, Casey does his best to put the problems behind them and give them, at the very least, a sense of mutual respect (I would argue something more).

Bryan Hitch's art is pretty good. Not his best work, but does have a higher panel-per-page count than his other work from the time (and since). Since this issue was obviously done in "Marvel style," whereas the other work was full script, it's interesting that the panel count is higher here. It sort of goes against the idea that artists hate drawing lots of panels, eh?

Some questions for next issue: will Casey's scripting improve? How many pages will Travis Charest draw? Will Lobdell's plot be better? Will I stop ragging on these guys? Saturday, people.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #471

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on The Incredible Hulk. I feel a cold coming on, so no "witty" comments in this space today. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

So, the Circus of Crime has kidnapped Bruce Banner and are now fighting the Hulk publically in a Vegas casino. The goal: get people betting and then rob the place. Criminal masterminds, they are. What actually happens is that the Hulk tears through them and escapes, while they all go to jail.

Banner is aided by Marlo and Dr. Spar, who shoot him full of adrenaline, which gets him all worked up and green. The ensuing fight if very entertaining, mostly because of Ed McGuinness's art. He draws the sheer absurdity of the Hulk fighting circus folk very well. My favourite pic is a two-page spread of the Clown riding a moped, shooting at the Hulk as they bust through a wall.

This issue is peculiar as Bruce Banner rarely appears--and when he does, he's helpless. It breaks from Casey's pattern for the run. I do enjoy that it's two women who rescue him, subverting expectations.

The Clown continues to narrate the issue and the only interesting information given is his commentary on the Hulk, how this one is silent, and business-like. This does enforce Casey's conception of the character, reducing him to pure muscle--his role during this run. Although, that may change... I honestly can't remember.

At the end of the issue, some big red alien towers over Banner. To be continued.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pre-Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #4

[Continuing the lead-up to when Joe Casey took over Wildcats from Scott Lobdell. With this issue, we're officially over halfway there (since Lobdell's run was seven issues) and, hell, Casey scripts issues five and six. That should make them better, right? New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

This issue was almost amazingly great. Instead, it's horrible cliche after horrible cliche. But, let's examine the near-greatness of Wildcats #4...

The first page has Grifter in rubble, trapped under some, reaching for his gun. The narration reads:






and then, later, when Warblade rescues Grifter:




Now, the quotation marks used should have tipped me off that someone was actually speaking these words, but my first thought was that, no, this was Scott Lobdell talking to the reader. That "note to self" line especially struck me as metafictional, like he was asking himself what had happened to Warblade since he'd yet to show up in the book.

But, no, it's just Kenyan and some lady looking at holographic footage of these events, with those two providing commentary. Of course, that raises the point about why "Kherubim half-breed" needed an explanation. At least with the metafictional angle, it made sense. As it is, are either of these two characters idiots? In fact, why are they telling each other the names of the characters? Kenyan knows who the WildC.A.T.S are/were, and, let's assume since she put the video together, the assistant lady knows as well. So, what's the story with this clunky narration?

The issue has Zealot get killed by robozombiepeople and die in a horribly cliche manner. Or did she?

That's all that happens. Really. That was what "killed" the WildC.A.T.S. I can see why Grifter left the team, but everyone else? Wow, how anticlimatic.

The true highlight of this issue is a letter printed, which I now reprint without permission of anyone:

Dear WC Guide,

Please help me settle a bet. I've got a dinner at Eastside Mario's riding on it.

i say that WILDCATS is a crappy, unfulfilling comic book because of Scott Lobdell's uninspired, inconsistent writing. That he seems not to know what to do with any one of Charest's pages (which I think are beautiful) and simply fills them with insipid dialogue and bad jokes.

My friend says the fault lies in the weak art. He feels that Charest focuses too much on heads and fashion, neglecting details like hands (well drawn ones, not lumpy things) and backgrounds. He thinks that Lobdell is probably an okay writer, but confusing pages leave him little to work with, and that Lobdell is filling in a story as best he can.

So please, WC Guide, tell me which of us is right? (I really want to win that dinner, hint, hint.)

Thank you for your prompt reply,
[I'm taking out the name because I don't want to add a google hit for this guy about this]
Toronto, Ontario

Wow. Just... wow. That guy did my job for me, really. And he's a fellow Canadian to boot. The other letters are pretty positive--a Scottish reader doesn't like the writing and an American is upset at the fill-in pages in issue three (of which this issue had more), but loves Lobdell and Charest. I think the message is clear, people: Americans don't know good comics. American letter-writers loved Wildcats, non-Americans saw it for the low-quality book it was at the time.

On Thursday, we get the first of two Lobdell-plotted, Casey-scripted issues beginning with one drawn by Bryan Hitch. Hey, it has a shot at being decent.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #470

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's mostly-forgotten run on The Incredible Hulk. Hey, it's St. Patrick's Day and the Hulk is all green! And... oh, "Banner" is English and/or German. Shit. Guess the Hulk isn't Irish... at least on his paternal grandfather's side of the family. The rest could be all kinds of Irish, who knows. Actually, I bet someone out there knows. Why would someone know that? New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

And I wrote that intro, like, six-and-a-half hours ago. It's now Tuesday morning, a bit after two, and I just spent three hours playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii with a buddy. We kicked some serious ass. I play as Ganondorf and had a habit of grabbing guys in mid-air and then slamming us both off of the screen, but the game would give them the KO on me and another player the KO on them. Does that seem fair to you? I slammed them. Shit.

What does that have to do with this issue of The Incredible Hulk? Nothing. Or, can I make it tie in?

Bruce Banner hits Vegas and gets involved with the Circus of Crime, which is working at a Circus Circus type casino while also pulling bank heists. You may remember the Clown from Deathlok, except instead of the lean, mean killing machine, we get a chubby middle-aged guy. What happened? Did Joe Casey and Leonardo Manco revamp the character? Did Ed McGuinness draw him wrong here?

While in Vegas, Bruce meets up with Marlo (Rick Jones's ex) and she's in with some shady people, so he tries to get it all sorted out, but that goes wrong and he winds up in the middle of a bank job that the Circus of Crime is pulling, and they fight, with the Circus taking down the Hulk.

This is a wacky-as-hell issue. It continues Casey's efforts to make Bruce the hero of the book with the Hulk as a "secret weapon." He continues his love of using older Marvel concepts with the Circus of Crime, and it also sets up his Deathlok run. The story is framed by the Clown talking to Doc Samson, which makes the story problematic with its relationship to Deathlok as this is not the same character.

Ed McGuinness does art for this issue and the next, and it fits the wacky story. He's one of Casey's... well, frequent isn't the right word, but common collaborators with a guest issue on Cable and the first six issue of Mr. Majestic done together. They seem a good match as McGuinness can do big superhero action well, which is something Casey likes to bring out, particularly early in his career and on corporate-owned books. (Actually, I would classify McGuinness in the same category as Mike Wieringo, Derec Aucoin, Jim Muniz, and Derec Donovan when discussing Casey's work. All have cartoony styles, and do very clean work. I should do a categorisation of Casey artists at some point. Hmm.)

Next issue wraps up the Vegas adventure. And how does this all relate to Super Smash Bros. Brawl? Er...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Sunday Open: Second Week of March

This week is a very Marvel-centric week. That's just the way the shipping schedule goes. Hell, the one non-Marvel comic I picked up this week actually came out last week. What's up with that, Other Comic Publishers?

Fantastic Four #555

I have no idea what the point of this comic is. I really don't. What is the goddamn plot? Why have Reed Richards's old girlfriend and her super-rich husband contacted him about this Nu-World project? What is it they need him to do? WHO KNOWS! Why, if Reed is so damn smart, did they not contact him sooner? Why do their really stupid ideas not get a "What the fuck are you talking about?" response? What is the disaster that will make the world uninhabitable within ten years? Why is Reed going to a wormhole on the other side of the universe? Since when do people meet, punch one another and then begin fucking? Why is there a giant splash of Reed's face? Why does this Alyssa girl always have her tongue sticking out? These are but a few questions this comic raises. The only way I'll pick up another issue is if it ships on another slow week where the effort of going to the shop along with the cost of bus tickets causes me to go "Aw, fuck it, I came all this way, I want more comics than this, dammit!" as happened this week.

The Mighty Avengers #10

I really enjoyed this issue. The Benday dots lost their charm quickly, as did the plugs for other Marvel books at the bottom of each page, but Bendis's Sentry made it all worthwhile with his freaking the fuck out in the past, not knowing what the hell is going on. Particularly when he sees himself fighting the Void. Bendis uses his psychological problems to his advantage really well. The solution for getting back to the present is pretty clever, using the Sentry's absence from people's memories as a way to avoid altering the past. Although, that does point out why the Sentry got sent back with Iron Man and Doom (at least from Bendis perspective). Nice little trick on his part to ensure some interesting moments and a resolution. Bagley's art is quite good here, too.

Thunderbolts #119

Issues are infrequent, but I love them when they do come out. "Everything falls apart" is a phrase overused, but really does apply here. Telepaths are fucking with everyone's mind and have set the Thunderbolts against one another. Venom is eating people, the Swordmaster is slicing them up, Norman Osborn is just fucking crazy, and Robbie Baldwin seems to actually be getting a little better with Doc Samson's help. I love the little touch of one of the telepaths being slightly obsessed with taking on Samson--which then fucks her over as he counters her probes. Plus, that showdown between Swordmaster and Venom at the end of the issue... Ellis continues to deconstruct the team and demonstrate why it was a totally retarded idea.

Wolverine #63

This issue didn't wow me as much as last. Wolverine continues his efforts to hunt down Mystique with the odd flashback to the two in the past. Some nice moments, but nothing terribly impressive. This is a good story, though, and I look forward to the last two(?) parts.

Young Liars #1

I picked this up partly because I meant to last week and didn't, and partly because of reviews I read online. The reviews were really mixed, but all seemed to suggest that this was worth looking at nonetheless. And it was. I'm not sure exactly what I think about it yet, though. The issue has both good and bad elements. I find the character of Sadie interesting as she has no impulse control and Danny's influence over her is intresting. But, honestly, not much else in the issue does anything for me. I don't find myself caring about anyone else--and even with Sadie, I don't care much, I'm more entertained. This book, though, seems very much about flawed types, rather than flawed characters. The supporting cast are all drawn very broad (and I don't meant picture drawn, just to be clear) with nothing really new or original about them. That, of course, could easily change. I'm torn on picking up the second issue. I guess we'll see what my mood is like when it comes out.

ClanDestine Classic

I picked up this hardcover collection of Alan Davis's original run on ClanDestine (and the two-issue crossover with the X-Men) while in London based purely on the first issue of the current mini-series. The quality is basically the same (although I'd argue Davis's art is better now)--so similar, actually, because the story isn't all that different. This collection has the family come together, but, mostly, not much happens. But, who cares, because the real focus is on the characters, not the plot. Davis has an amazing sense of who these people are and writes them better than a lot of writers would. It's nice to see a bit more of Pandora's character since she hasn't gotten much panel time in the current mini--one moment that's really well done is during the X-Men crossover where Rory is excited to move to the mansion and begin training and she points out that maybe she doesn't want to do everything Rory does.

Another great issue is a crossover with Spider-Man as he gives the twins a chance to be his sidekicks--if they can catch him before he catches them. It really shows off Spidey's character--that he's not much older than them and knows how to speak to them on their level--and sets up his teaching position, in a sense.

The good news is that you don't need this collection to follow the current mini-series, but these are some great issues and do provide some specific details that enrich the characters.

Punisher MAX Volume 4

The fourth hardcover collection continues on with the same direction as the previous three. Ennis continues to build on previous storylines as characters begin to bounce off of one another with the Punisher caught in the middle. His focus on his mission is evident here as he doesn't let personal feelings get in the way nor does the idea that he may die stop him. When the Russian general godes him in a very obvious manner, he tells the reader he knows it's a trap, but, fuck it, the man deserves to die and it's Castle's job to kill him. Ennis has really stripped the character down to the essential "man kills bad people" concept, eliminating anything that doesn't add to that. The second story has the widows of various members of the mafia try to kill Frank and has a woman bent on killing those women save him and give us a female Punisher... and one of the most fucked up endings to an Ennis story I've ever read. Seriously, it really bothered me... and still does. And if you've read a lot of Ennis, you'll know how big a deal that is. While I'm sad to see that Ennis is leaving the book after the current arc, I cannot wait to get the final hardcover collection so I can sit down and spend a day reading the entire MAX run. It's been a fantastic 60 or so issues.

DMZ: Friendly Fire

What impresses me most about this story is that Wood does his best to adhere to realism. You keep expecting some hidden conspiracy behind the Day 204 massacre of protestors by US soldiers, but there isn't. It really just comes down to whether or not a protestor had a gun--a fact no one will ever know for sure. This story is about Matty's struggle to find meaning and truth in a meaningless and truthless event, unable to find anyone to blame and an endless supply of people to feel sorry for (on both sides). I've been enjoying DMZ a lot, but this arc is, by far, the best work I've seen on the book so far by Brian Wood.

As always, not much to say about the things I like. I'm working on it.

This week, the standard posts. I'll be continuing my look at Joe Casey's run on The Incredible Hulk and Scott Lobdell's Wildcats (where Joe Casey scripts two issues).

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pre-Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #3

[Continuing my look at Wildcats before Joe Casey took over the writing chores. Courage, gentle reader... COURAGE!. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

The second volume of Wildcats was bimonthly and was announced, like, twelve years before it began and, yet, Travis Charest needed help completing issue three. He did two issues and 15 more pages before needing another artist to finish the job. Rob Liefeld wishes he was this fucking slow.

And it's not like Travis Charest's work is as amazing as anyone ever likes to say it is. Oh, it's pretty, sure thing, but he can't tell a story to save his life. On the first page, some little kid has a problem with his ice cream cone and I can't tell what the fuck the problem is. All I see is a cone with no ice cream. Did it fall off? Did Grifter (the ice cream man) not give him much ice cream? What the fuck is going on here and why should I care?

The plot of this issue involves the Wildcats (Grifter, Emp, Spartan and Noir) taking on some elite school where the headmaster is a pervy evil-doer and his secretary is an old bitch of an android. Spartan and Emp pose as a mother and daughter, but we don't know it's them yet despite the fact that Spartan dressed in clothes the exact same colour as his uniform, because that's a clever way of telling us, the readers of this comic, that it's actually Spartan in disguise!

Which makes the scene where pervy ol' headmaster pulls out his magical crystal and the mom is all "I'm going to fuck you in front of my daughter, master!" extra creepy, because not only is that not a human... it's not even a woman! Joke's on you, pervy headmaster! That's what you get for using your magic crystal to force women to sleep with you!

But, oh NO! Instead of violating this seemingly-hapless soccer mom right there and then, he feels the need to show off the secret labyrinth below the school and the cool neato alien weapons he's got stored for Kenyan... "THE MAGIC 'K' WORD." Well, he called down the thunder and now he's got it! Yeah, Emp and Spartan totally kill him while Grifter and Noir kill the android secretary.

This issue does actually move the plot forward as the team (or, not-team as Grifter keeps insisting) takes down one of Kenyan's bitches. Go, Wildcats!

But, don't forget the weird pervy stuff or the fantastic homophobia Grifter shows while talking to Noir.

And, damn you, Travis Charest... because you couldn't finish the issue, I now have Carlos D'anda's drawing of Spartan in women's clothing in my head... FOREVER! At least Charest kept him looking like a woman, while D'anda has him magically transform back into the guy we all know and love (but not in that way).

Shit, I can't even write about these issues seriously. Best thing to do is just lie back and think of Joe Casey... okay, that's creepy. Forget I said that.

Tomorrow: this week in comics with the Sunday Open!

The I'ds of March

Over at Comics Should be Good, Brian Cronin is doing something called "the I'ds of March" where he posting a few things he would change if he had the power. Nothing too big, just small changes. He has a post where he calls on others to give some of theirs, but instead of posting there, I'm posting here, because I love all of you more than everyone over there. So, here are ten of my I'ds of March:

1. I'd have left Ladronn on Cable instead of replacing him with Rob Liefeld. And, you know, let Casey tell the story he was setting up instead of passing it off to lesser talents.

2. I'd have made Banshee's X-Corps a legitimate alternative to the X-Men, rather than a corrupt group that lasted for one arc.

3. Like Cronin, I'd have kept Ben Reilly alive and kept him as Spider-Man. It solves all of the so-called problems people had with Spider-Man but with no Satanic deal. It also allowed Peter and Mary Jane to live normal lives with occasional appearances.

4. I'd have continued to set up Nate Grey as a mutant shaman similar to Dr. Strange, having him act as a symbolic counterpoint to Cable in a larger manner, particularly when Cable became all messianic.

5. I'd have continued with Warren Ellis's revamp of Thor--or I'd have made Dan Jurgens's story where Thor as lord of Asgard sets up shop on Earth, causing all sorts of political, social and religious problems a real story rather than a fake one.

6. I'd have published Marvel Boy 2. (And then, of course, the third series to complete the planned trilogy.)

7. I'd have put Steve Dillon on a book of higher quality and more suited to his talents than Wolverine Origins.

8. I'd have signed Frank Quitely to an exclusive contract at Wildstorm so he would have completed Millar's run--and I would have, you know, not censored the book.

9. I'd have made one of the four would-be-Supermen take over the mantle of Superman during "The Reign of the Supermen." Specifically, the "Last Son of Krypton" as he seemed most like a resurrected Superman. I'd have not made that character the Eradicator, I'd have just made it a resurrected Superman that was cold and more violent because of the experience and made the story about his struggle to regain his lost humanity and become the man he was before his death.

10. I'd have continued with Joe Casey's idea of Superman as a pacifist.

Regular Saturday post later. It's Wildcats #3, people. Damn right you'll check in later.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Splash Page 6: The New Defenders #1

This week, Tim and I discuss The Last Defenders #1. In the column, I play the role of "The Joe Casey Expert" and Tim plays the role of "The Defenders Expert," which is an awesome coincidence. Go read it.

Lesser Known Joe Casey Comics: The Incredible Hulk #469

[Continuing my look at Joe Casey's short, mostly forgotten run on The Incredible Hulk. New posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday.]

This issue, along with the next two, help set up Casey's Deathlok, filling in the other half of the equation as Cable provided the hero... and this run provides the villain(s).

Here, Bruce Banner, on the run and in search of his wife's killer, gets himself kidnapped by Devlin Deangelo, some piece of shit crook that specialises in superpeople-related crime. He's kidnapped Banner to fix the Super-Adaptoid, and promises to help Banner find his wife's killer if he does so... of course, that's not actually going to happen, but Banner is also smart enough to know that if he refuses, men with big guns will probably kill him. The Hulk doesn't seem an option to him as he works as reprogramming the Super-Adaptoid so that, when he escapes, it will attack Deangelo and his men. That doesn't exactly go as planned as it attacks Banner, which brings out the Hulk and then two fight until the new programming kicks in.

Where this run ties into Deathlok is Deangelo providing the Ringmaster with his new eyes, which he then uses on Banner to send him to Vegas to take on his former Circus of Crime. Toboldt shows up in Deathlok on a much grander scale, using his hypnotic eyes for political gain. In the next two issues, we'll also see the Clown (albeit in a different form), another major player in Deathlok.

Bruce Banner continues to solve problems as himself rather than relying on the Hulk. Most of the issues has Banner figuring out what to do and then acting, the Hulk only showing up when absolutely necessary--when a super-villain appears. The line between Banner and the Hulk is the line between alter-ego and mask; Deangelo isn't a super-villain, he's just a common arm's dealer that specialises in bigger things, which really makes him a petty thug, one not worthy of the Hulk's attention, almost.

The first page of the issue has a nice gag as Banner waits in a bus station and kid next to him plays with superhero action figures. Namely, Captain America and Iron Man--the founders--and the kid plans to get Thor next. A nice little reminder that the Hulk is not on the same level of those heroes despite being a founder of the group--something Captain America is not. Banner's response is to sigh while the kid sings the theme song from the Captain America cartoon series from the '60s. After Banner leaves, the kid then sings the theme from Iron Man's show.

Next issue, the Circus of Crime.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pre-Joe Casey Comics: Wildcats #2

[Continuing the lead-up posts to Joe Casey's run on Wildcats (volumes 2 and 3), which means more Scott Lobdell fun. New posts Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.]

Up until Joe Casey and Sean Phillips took over the title, Wildcats was a bimonthly book, which I think really hurt it as shown in the second issue, which has absolutely nothing to do with the first--aside from old characters from WildC.A.T.S. not hanging out as a team anymore.

In this issue's case, the former members are Voodoo and Maul (or Pris and Jeremy as they were named by their parents). They're roommates (or, Pris is crashing on his couch on a semi-permanent basis) and Jeremy is all in love with her and she seems flirty, but he's a dork and doesn't see it and spends all of his time in his lab working on reconstructing her DNA by floating in some weird tank all shrivelled up and shit--that is until some lady with a gun shows up and kidnaps them so he can cure some theoretical disease that she's infected with (and just infected him with) until the Bros. Death show up and lots of shooting happens and Daemonite shows Pris a trick or two and the day is saved, people are cured and Jeremy loses some data he needs.

Again, the pieces are here, but Lobdell doesn't really do anything with them. The four main characters of this issue (Jeremy, Pris, C.C. and the old daemonite) show up durin Casey's run where he takes these ideas and makes them work.

I remember when the Jeremy shrinking himself (kinda) was mentioned, Lobdell presented it as the coolest thing ever, but doesn't do anything with it here. Casey at least gave him a reason for altering his appearance like that, but Lobdell doesn't actually show or tell us why it's necessary for him to be in that form while doing his laboratory work.

These characters don't show up again while Lobdell is on the book.

Travis Charest's art is nice to look at.