Yeah, been a while, hasn't it? So let's see if we can manage a few short(ish) faster-paced reviews, just to get my hand back in, shall we? Let's shall.

Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love #1 (Chris Roberson/Shawn McManus; DC/Vertigo)
The latest in the Fables series spinoffs, we follow Cinderella, Fabletown's spy extraordinaire, as she sets off on her latest mission: to determine who's been sneaking magical artifacts from the fallen Homelands, post Fables war, into the mundy world and to stop them. She asks Frau Totenkinder for some help, for a price that's left unspecified for now but is certain to be fairly high. We also see that Cinderella runs a shoe shop in Fabletown, with her assistant -- who feels much more put-upon than he actually is -- trying to run a functioning business in the frequent absence of his leader. It becomes clear almost immediately that putting an even mildly ambitious person in that sort of position is the sort of thing that Will Not Go Well -- although, again, that's only set up in this issue, and we'll have to wait for the payoff. Overall, it was a lot of fun, consistent with the characterization of Cinderella as we've seen her in the main Fables series (I've said it before, but Prince Charming married three fairly awesome women). The only small glitch was figuring out when in the Fables timeline the story takes place, as it turns out to be very particular. It's after the Fabletown war, but before the arrival of Mister Dark, as the Underwood still exists at that point; I wonder if perhaps the series was maybe planned to come out about a year ago, and something delayed it. In any event, McManus' artwork maintains the overall look and tone of the Fables series while also being more or less its own thing.
Very Good; Recommended

Stumptown #1 (Greg Rucka/Matthew Southworth; Oni)
In which Rucka goes for the modern noir detective story. We start near the end, in which Dex is being shot by someone, and wind back to the beginning. Dex -- whose first name is apparently Dexedrine, which will tell you something about her background right there -- is a Native American detective living in Portland, Oregon, trying to care for her younger brother, whom everyone in the neighborhood seems to love. They're not so happy with her, however. Dex, it seems, has a major gambling problem. She runs up more than she can repay at the local casino, and gets roped in through those debts into trying to run down the daughter of the casino owner; said daughter has suddenly just dropped off the face of the earth. This being a detective story, we discover almost immediately that there are all sorts of things that Dex hasn't been told about what's going on. It seems to be getting set up to be a classic story of dames and double-crosses, only the detective in this case is a woman, which may or may not also truncate the classic "find the dame who then seduces the detective and then does him wrong" part of the story. (NOTE: I've seen some other reviews, and for reasons which utterly escape me, almost everyone is assuming that Dex is a lesbian. The only textual support for it seems to come from Dex commenting that the girl she's been asked to find could have run away with a man or a woman. It would not be unusual for Rucka to create a tough lesbian detective -- see also: Renee Montoya, Kate Kane's Batwoman -- but there doesn't seem to be a lot more there, at the moment.) Southworth's artwork is hard-edged, heavy-lined and dark, matching the mood of the story perfectly. For what it's worth, I'm glad that this is coming from Oni, which seems to aim for graphic novels and collections more than it does single issues. This story seems strongly like it will read better in collections -- though I assume those collections will lack the backmatter, like Southworth's explanation this issue of how he came up with the look and content of the art -- and may be a harder sell in individual issues.
Excellent; Highly recommended

Invincible Presents: Atom Eve and Rexplode #1 (Benito Cereno/Nate Bellegarde; Image)
In which we go into the past, before the Invincible War, and see how Rexplode and Atom Eve, a.k.a Samantha Wilkins, met. We start with Rexplode's story, which turns out to be very grim indeed. His family is grindingly poor, driving Rex to steal food. He's seen by a man who gets intrigued by his apparent talents, and who then follows him back to his home and makes a proposition to Rex' father ... who sells his son to someone he doesn't know, essentially for a few groceries. Rex is made to endure all sorts of body modifications, which allow him to explode things with sufficient kinetic energy. (He throws balls at his targets. A lot.) It becomes clear to the reader long before it dawns on Rex that perhaps, just perhaps, he's not working for the good guys that he thought he was. But before he can quite figure out what to do with this concept, he meets Atom Eve.

I really really wish that Kirkman would outsource every issue of the main Invincible title in which Atom Eve appears to Cereno so that she could get some more interesting characterization. She only appears on the last page of this first issue, but presents with a lot more attitude and is a much more interesting character, in a one page appearance, than Kirkman has ever managed. This was also true of the first Atom Eve miniseries that Cereno wrote. I get that in the main title, she's a supporting character, whereas Cereno gets to write her as the main character of his minseries, and so she actually has to be more interesting; she holds the center. I get all that, I really do. But Kirkman has only ever written Eve as an archetype of The Girl. You want her, but you can't have her. Miracle of miracles, you get her ... and then your enemy punches her guts out and kills her, motivating you to kill him (you think). But then, more miracles of miracles! she reassembles herself and she's back to life, and gave herself a boob job in the bargain! And yet ... somehow doesn't quite manage to be that interesting a character, despite everything.

Anyway, all that said, Cereno and Bellegarde do their usual excellent work in this miniseries, producing strong characterization and story and artwork. It's very enjoyable, and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series.
Excellent; Highly recommended


Hector Plasm: Totentanz (Cereno/Bellegarde and others; Image)
Very different in feel from the first Hector Plasm, which told more straight-ahead stories. This one contains not only stories, but recipes, and songs (sort of). The quality does feel rather more variable than expected, but overall, it's still a very entertaining and interesting look at the character and his life and times. And also the occasional ghosts and skeletons and whatnot. One of the stories, "Hector contre la danse macabre", is meant to be read in conjunction with composer Camille Saint-Saens piece "Danse Macabre", with story beats coordinated to the music. Happily, Nate Bellegarde then put together this NOT SAFE FOR WORK piece (contains full frontal comics character nudity), synchronizing the visual and audio beats as intended.
Excellent; Highly recommended

World's Finest #1 of 4 (Sterling Gates/Julian Lopez, Bit; DC)
Adventure Comics 3/506 (Geoff Johns, Michael Shoemaker/Francis Manapul, Clayton Henry; DC)
Red Robin #5 (Christopher Yost/Ramon Bachs; DC)
I put these three titles together because the first two, between them, show how frustrating Red Robin itself is. All three involve Red Robin; in World's Finest, he teams up with Nightwing -- Chris Kent, not Dick Grayson, who's off being Batman -- to take down an operation by the Penguin, who has managed to kidnap Flamebird. (Side note: since I abandoned the Superman side of the DCU back when they were having a terrible time getting any of the Superman titles to ship, I had no idea that there had been "time storms" or some such, which propelled Chris Kent through about 15 years of physical development in only a few months. I also had no idea that he was Zod's son. It was fairly startling. But I digress.) In Adventure, Conner "Superboy" Kent, trying to get back in touch with his past, tracks down Tim and helps him out with a mess he's gotten into. And in Red Robin, Tam Fox winds up delegated to track Tim down, for no apparent reason -- seriously, Lucius would send his daughter after Tim, knowing the sorts of things he could be getting into? His daughter? Sorry, don't buy that. But anyway, there she is. And there Tim is, post mauling. (I will also just note that a biologically human vigilante without a spleen, doing the sorts of things he does, is taking one hell of a risk.) The thing is, World's Finest manages to advance the idea that Tim is still trying to find Bruce, searching for odd and obsure clues -- it feels like it takes place long after the current Red Robin arc has ended. And in Adventure, we see, for the first and only time so far, Tim articulate why he's chosen to be Red Robin, an identity for which he can only have the deepest loathing. Or, more precisely, we see Conner figure it out, and then he and Tim talk about it. We haven't gotten any of that in the main Red Robin title, and at this point, we should be.
World's Finest: Very good; Recommended.
Adventure Comics: Very Good; Recomended.
Red Robin: ... Meh.


Final Crisis Aftermath: Escape #6 of 6 (Ivan Brandon/Cliff Richards, Prentis Rollins)
One of the more headscratching things to come out of Final Crisis. On the one hand, it was different and experimental in a way that DC seldom is. On the other ... by the time you get to the end, all you can think is, "All of this is for THAT result? Why didn't they just ASK him?" In any event, the title ends in a way that seems to set up the new (and dreadfully misnamed, no doubt) Global Peace Agency, with Nemesis as its chief. It seems to be a replacement for the now-destroyed Checkmate, with a broader brief, and fewer checks on its power. Its brief is to prevent the next Crisis; it will, of course, utterly and absolutely fail at that. It is, in fact, failing at that at this very moment, with Blackest Night zombies running around all over the place.

A moment from the High Horse, if you will: One of the terribly frustrating things about DC's various crises is the really odd lack of followthrough in some places. For example, at the end of the Crime Bible: The Books of Blood miniseries, Renee Montoya was accidentally head of the Religion of Crime. And then when Final Crisis came along, she just ... wasn't, anymore, and now in Detective, Alice has come out of nowhere to take charge. At the end of Final Crisis, Renee Montoya had been drafted by Checkmate to be head of the Global Peace Agency, gathering the task force of 51 Supermen who were to defeat Darkseid, only to arrive and discover that Earth-prime's Superman was back and handling things just fine, thanks. And now ... she's not. It does seem that there should be some exploration of what happened and the effects before you go blithely off to the next thing. I mean, it wouldn't take all that much to tell us how she got out of all these commitments, would it? But I digress.
Interesting; no recommendation


Power Girl #6 (Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray/Amanda Connor; DC)
Have I mentioned that I absolutely love this series? No? Well, I absolutely love this series. It manages to take on the sorts of Serious Things that a superhero story must do -- for certain values of serious, of course; New York getting levitated by a hyperintelligent ape's spaceship is only just so serious, after all. At the same time, it never loses its sense of humor and fun. Power Girl actually enjoys being a superhero. At the same time, she enjoys being Karen Starr, if not quite as much -- it's certainly the more aggravating side of her existence.

One of the things I've never understood about superhero comix is the secret identity thing. Take Power Girl, for example: six foot tall buxom blonde, never to be found in the vicinity of Karen Starr even when they logically ought to be. Just how hard can it be to make that connection? And in the last two issues, Palmiotti and Gray have actually played with that a little, having someone discover Power Girl's secret identity. She doesn't know who it is yet, though undoubtedly she will soon.
Excellent; Highly recommended.


Detective Comics #858 (Greg Rucka/JH Williams III, Cully Hammer)
In which we start seeing Batwoman's origin story, with perhaps a tiny bit of Alice's origin story and the modern story mixed in. We meet Kate and her sister Beth as children, and see their mostly happy home lives. Certainly, they're frustrated by their father's frequent absences, and also frustrated when they're made to move yet one more time, but still basically happy. That all comes to an end in London, where their family is attacked, presumably by the Religion of Crime, during the girls' birthday outing with their mother. She's killed, and it seems that Beth is killed as well. In the modern frame, Kate is analyzing some of Alice's blood to see if it's her sister or not, and ignoring her father's demands and pleas for her to talk to him. In the backup story, "Pipeline, chapter 1", Renee Montoya as the Question wraps up the first part of her investigation into a slavery ring, rescuing not only the girl she was after but several more. (One wonders what the rest of "Pipeline" is supposed to be, if chapter 1 ends like that.) I actually feel a bit sorry for Cully Hammer; he's been doing very good work on The Question backup story in Detective, but has been totally overshadowed by the amazing things that Williams is doing with Batwoman.
Excellent; Highly recommended

Wonder Woman #37 (Gail Simone/Bernard Chang)
You know ... I wonder if perhaps Simone is aiming at nothing other than an essential refounding of Wonder Woman's story with this arc. After all, Diana's last two origin stories don't really work any more; she's surely observed man's world quite enough (and the current setup of her story seems to assign that role to Hippolyta as a previous Wonder Woman, anyway), and she's no longer functioning as an ambassador. After "Amazons Attack", the Themiscyran embassy seems to be gone, and she's actually working for the US government. Which brings up the question ... what's she doing here, anyway? If the issue is that she's been expelled because she no longer thinks as her people believe she should, because she also worships unfamiliar gods, then that brings her story into alignment with the other two of DC's alleged Trinity: Batman and Superman both lost their parents to create themselves, as well, albeit at much younger ages, and Superman doesn't really remember losing his. In any event, this issue is sort of wildly unbalanced. I do wish the Donna Troy part of it would just end; having her made insane by Genocide, even though nobody else who contacted Genocide was, makes less than no sense. I'm curious about what's going on with the Amazons; parthenogenic pregnancies after all this time? And Achilles seems like an honorable man being forced to do progressively more dishonorable things; I suspect that he may wind up rebelling against Zeus and Ares sometime soon. (The Ares ghost thing was just ridiculous, really.)

All that said, the one major knock against the most recent story arcs is that, the two issue thing with Black Canary aside, this thing with Alkyone and Achilles and Zeus' big plan is taking FOREVER. I have the vague, nebulous impression that it's in part because Diana isn't really doing anything with Final Crisis or Blackest Night, so she needed some sort of epic storyline to match the guys. (Yes, she had an important role, of sorts, in Final Crisis, and yes, there's a Blackest Night: Wonder Woman on the way. However, neither of those events is going to be reflected back in the main title, whereas Final Crisis rebooted the entire Batman line, and has had some interesting aftereffects over in Superman's chunk; Blackest Night showed up in this week's Red Robin, and is actually going to effectively suspend publication on Batman and Robin for three months.)
Interesting; no recommendation.



Something of a side note: it's fascinating to see how the solo-female superhero titles from the DC universe are doing relative to each other. Surprising, one way and another. From the Top 300 Comics for October 2009 chart from ICV2, the rankings for October for those titles:

#19 Detective Comics (Batwoman and the Question)
#51 Batgirl
#68 Supergirl
#76 Power Girl
#77 Wonder Woman

That Batwoman and the Question have been able to sustain Detective at a very high sales level is very impressive. That Batgirl is doing so well, relatively speaking, is baffling. (Something to judge by: Stephanie Brown is now outselling "Superman: World of New Krypton", Superman and Action -- though that may all be an indication of the weakness of the Superman franchise at the moment, rather than the strength of Batgirl.) To be sure, there's only a few hundred issues between Power Girl and Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, it does seem to show that people just don't quite "get" Wonder Woman these days; she really ought to be doing better.
New one up at SH:

Strange Horizons Columns: Welcome to the Real World, by Iain Jackson:
Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. That's the saying, right? So why is it that so many supervillains never quite seem to get around to doing time at all? And why is it that even when they do time, it winds up being strikingly short. You'd think, you kill ten, twenty, a few hundred people, even in a non-death-penalty state, you serve a few hundred years, right? And yet, that really doesn't quite seem to be the case. Crime, punishment and justice in superhero land somehow don't quite resemble anything out here in the real world, and, it turns out, really can't...

[...] really good villains are, in the immortal words of the Joker from the first Batman movie, "all those wonderful toys" for the writer. But put yourself into the mind of the characters—the residents of Gotham City, for example. How would you like to have all those people running amok in your city again and again and again and again and again? It either makes your hero look incompetent, or your city look terrible, or both. Now, the Joker is clearly insane. Whether Gotham is in New York or New Jersey doesn't matter; neither state would execute someone that far gone. (And Grant Morrison's nifty start to All Star Superman #11 notwithstanding, New York doesn't have an active death penalty at the moment.) And as stated, Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane and its equivalents are clearly no real solution. Even when criminals don't escape, if they regain their sanity, then they've served their sentence and get released—that happened both with Harley Quinn and the Riddler, both of whom seem, rather improbably, to have actually gone straight these days—and from a human point of view, that really doesn't seem like enough of a penalty for someone who may have killed and maimed dozens, hundreds of people. So, given that execution is off the table, and imprisonment seems unfortunately temporary, how do you solve a problem like the Joker? How do you catch the clown and pin him down? ...


Would you believe those last two lines were almost the first things to occur to me about this article? And somehow, I just couldn't resist letting it stay there. (There was, actually, an entire parody song, but it was very very very bad. And also not that far from the original.)

I wonder how many people even caught it, and what their reaction was?
I feel that I should mention that I really do like Broken Voice's Shades comic. It's sort of ... mysticism and magic and superheroes in the modern world. The story's really interesting -- the high tea featuring an armed attack that goes dreadfully wrong for the attackers is really kind of perfect, and earlier, they break the British Museum (but who doesn't?) -- and I like the artwork. Plus, the shaman's powers require him to be naked a lot. (... what? What? I never said I wasn't shallow! And it is established as necessary fairly early, so that it's not really gratuitous.) And honestly, in this, our year of the 2d Annual Alex Ross Heterosexual Male Groin Freakout Open (also known as Crotchgate 2008), it's kind of refreshing to see a series that undresses its men -- ok, its man -- with wild abandon and makes no apologies about it. (Seriously, who knew that people who have penises could get so freaked out by drawings of people with penises that actually acknowledge that the characters are supposed to have penises? Is it wrong of me to hope that at some point in the near future, Alex Ross -- who is, I believe, hopelessly heterosexual -- just says, "Oh, the hell with it" and does a cover image of Captain Steel and Alan Scott facing off against each other with absolutely unambiguous and unmistakeable raging erections visible under the spandex?) To be sure, Shades is aimed more or less at your standard superhero age audience, so it's not as if the shaman or his coreligionists actually wave weenie in your face, so to speak.

Which, it turns out, produces periodically problematic artwork.

In the most recent update, one of the shamans does a version of the superheroine twist. You know the twist -- you've all seen it. It's that very strange pose that women get drawn in so as to allow you to get nearly a full frontal shot of the cleavage and a full rear shot of the butt. You can see a version of the pose in the Madame Mirage cover to the left. Despite the severity of her pose (more about that in a sec), it's actually a comparatively mild twist; the butt just isn't that prominent. The shaman's pose in the latest update of Shades, seen to the right of this paragraph, is actually a more traditional Twist, if for somewhat different reasons. A more normal shot from the rear would keep you from being able to see the face, while a more normal shot from the front, even up high, would give you a lovely shot of shaman dingus. Problematic either way.

Now, I will say that for the purposes of journalistic completeness, I have, in fact, tried to get into both positions. (No, there are NOT any pictures.) And I can now say two things with authority:

1) Both positions are, shockingly enough, physically possible. (No, REALLY, they are! I know! Who knew!?)

2) Both positions ... Hurt. So. MUCH. The shaman isn't screaming because of the unexpected dragon appearing out of nowhere; he's screaming because his spine is in real and spectacular pain! Granted, my back isn't the most limber, but I can't believe that it wouldn't hurt even a younger and more athletic person. The shaman's position hurt my lower back, and Madame's position hurt everywhere. (Mind, she isn't precisely solid in the story, so she can get away with anatomical improbabilities. In fact, the only reason she's not screaming is that her spine is, quite literally, made of light.)

The other thing I can say with some authority is ... well ...



OK, I'll give 'em the first frame. In that position, with an apparent light source from above, the shadows make sense (... although, honestly? still kind of unusually wee. Most guys, that position, that sort of leap, there'd be danglage.). In the second ... no. Just ... no. The light source, to the extent that you can tell, is from above, his pelvis is aimed toward us, and yet, major shadows. That there is some bad planning and improbable anatomy, that is. (I am not campaigning for full frontal shaman dingus, let us be clear. Frankly, if the artist had just put his front leg up higher to figleaf him, it would have been perfectly reasonable.)

And now, on to actual reviews of hopefully one paragraph or less.

Reviews thisaway... )
Between Virgin's Dan Dare and Marvel's The Twelve, apparently 'tis the season for dragging old characters into the modern/future world.

The Twelve 0 (J. Michael Straczynski/Chris Weston; Marvel)
The Twelve features characters resurrected from Marvel's pre-Marvel days, back in the Atlas and Timely Production pre-war years. Issue 0 isn't necessarily required for the series, from the look of it. Although it's entertaining to see the differences between what people were willing to accept then and now from their stories. I mean, if you think that the whole Batman/Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent/Superman secret identity thing is a bit strained, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Take the Phantom Reporter, who appears to have two different secret identities. There's Dick Jones, Cub Reporter; strangely, despite the fact that he never seems to bring back the story, every story to which he's assigned somehow miraculously gets resolved. Secret Identity 2 is Mr. Van Ergen, a Park Avenue playboy whose father left him $50 million. The hero -- entirely without powers of any sort -- is the Phantom Reporter. All three of them wear blue business suits. Van Ergen and the Reporter both wear bright red capes. The Reporter adds a glowing red domino mask; I'm guessing that the glow manages to distract people from anything important. (The clothing problem, by the by, is only going to get worse in the new series, if the triple identity remains, since, due to two characters with similar designs, Weston changed the color of the Phantom Reporter's suit to a lovely shade of magenta. Magenta business suits, then and now, being so overwhelmingly common as to pass without notice, of course.

Anyway, aside from the character designs, there's not a lot to comment on, as aside from those designs, issue 0 only contains three of the old Daring and USA Comics reprints. Fun stories, though, even with massive gaping plotholes. It's interesting to note that people of 60 years ago were willing to tolerate far more in the way of violence than we are now. Every single one of the heroes in those old stories kills someone, sometimes several people, and they get away with it, and it's seen as a good thing. I suspect that one of the things the heroes will have to deal with is the fact that killing with such impunity is no longer accepted.

The revised character designs are ... intriguing, let's say. Have a look at Captain Wonder, for example. Bare legs will certainly be an interesting thing to carry forward. (And I wonder how long it will be before Weston gets massively tired of doing the hairs on the legs like that). But ... well, thing about bare legs is, they draw your gaze down. And Captain Wonder ... kind of ain't so wonderful in certain areas, if you see what I mean. Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that the character ought to be Captain Steel'd, so to speak --- wait, yes, I am saying that. Poor man has a negadick right now. The thing about bare legs is that it draws your attention to how the anatomy fits together, and really, there ought to be a bit more there there. Of course, as soon as you do that, the fanboy masses scream. I have to admit, I don't entirely get that, but I think that's a rant for another time. I'm also curious about the Blue Blade, especially given Weston's character notes on that page. And I'm really curious as to what Marvel lets Straczynski get away with for these characters. They let him pull Squadron Supreme over to Marvel MAX, allowing for more in the way of violence and boobies. This appears to be on themain Marvel label, judging from the announcements and issue 0, so I'm guessing not so much with the boobies this time.

Kind of recommended, for the fun if exceeding violent old stories, but not actually required.


Robin 169 (Milligan/Baldeon/Bird; DC): ... Eergh. I'm beginning to think that Milligan should never be allowed near regular superhero series, because his brand of weird just doesn't work for them. Infinity Inc. is well-nigh incomprehensible -- though it may work better as a collection when done -- and Tim Drake is savagely out of character for this story. (Though the graveyard story in Robin Annual that was the first part of this crossover now feels a bit more connected.) He's just not stupid enough to do this, especially after he's been kidnapped, dragged all over the world, threatened with death, etc. The only purpose this issue serves is to produce the Nightwing/Robin smackdown due in next week's Nightwing. I will say that this Bat-crossover is being handled with amazing dispatch -- all of the issues have been on time, at least -- but starting with the end of the last issue and continuing with this one, it's gone rather impressively off the rails. I'll probably keep reading -- or rather, I'll look at next week's Nightwing to see if there's anything other than a smackdown with a pre-ordained conclusion -- but I couldn't seriously recommend that anyone else even look at the thing.

Invincible 47 (Kirkman/Ottley; Image): Mostly marking time on the way to The Super! Spectacular! Smackdown! In Issue 50! (Yes, yes, we know, issue 50 is going to be The Epic to End All Epics.) It felt very much like a chess-piece issue -- people all being moved where they need to be either physically or emotionally for issue 50 -- but a surprisingly enjoyable chess piece issue.
An Open Plea to Comics Writers: Could we please please PLEASE confine the zombie thing to Marvel Zombies and Walking Dead? PLEASE?


Buffy the Vampire Slayer #9: No Future for You part 4 (Brian K. Vaughan/Georges Jeanty)
...Well, thank goodness that's over.

Look, it's not that it was badly written. And I understand that it was a means to an end; the slayers organization would need some way to go after rogue slayers. AFter all, not every single one of the thousands of girls who received superpowers on that day is going to be filled with the desire to save the world. It makes sense that Giles wants to protect Buffy from knowing what needs to be done or that he's doing it or from having to handle it herself, because he knows she really couldn't; it's consistent with what happened in "The Gift", when he killed Ben and never told Buffy what happened. Now that Buffy is really and truly the leader of thousands, she can't be seen to be sanctioning the murders of some of them. It even makes sense that Faith and Giles would be the ones to do what needs to be done; they're the two characters most likely to be able to live with it. However, to get there, Vaughan essentially ignored everything that happened with Faith in Angel and in the last season of Buffy. She grew up and changed in ways that just aren't reflected in "No future for you". (We will serenely ignore the sheer lunacy of Faith being trained to act as an English aristocrat, because the very concept is so absurd that you have to simply accept it as the story's "god point" to read the thing.)

If this were Faith right after the bodyswap episodes (which I can't remember the titles of), then yes, it works really well. That Faith was still bone-deep furious with and jealous of Buffy. If that's supposed to be Faith after she helped Buffy and the slayerettes save the world, then it simply doesn't work at all.


Atomic Robo #3 (Clevinger/Wegener/Pattison; Red 5): Man, that was just an unreasonable amount of fun. Intelligent robots, wandering attack pyramids in Egypt, stuff blowing up ... it's like BPRD as funneled through Raiders of the Lost Ark, in a way. It even manages to do the zombie thing in a not-at-all-annoying way. The sort of story that appeals to your inner kid. Plus one that you can give to your outer kid, if you happen to have one around. It doesn't stand alone; if you haven't read issue 2, you're going to be a bit lost, but only a bit. Highly recommended.

The Sword #3 (Luna Brothers; Image): In which the story moves forward incrementally, and a whole lotta people die. Lots and lots and LOTS of people. If you like sheer gory mayhem, this is your issue right here. In terms of story beats, mostly, it allows a lot of people to find out about Dara and the sword. Judging from the cover of issue 4, things are about to get very very sticky.

Dynamo 5 #9 (Faerber/Asrar/Riley): In which we discover new aspects to Scatterbrain's powers, and he gets intriguingly pissed off about something that happened while he was in a coma. I'm looking forward to seeing what exactly the explanation for his reaction is; it seems like the sort of thing that can only really go in one of three directions (with all of them carrying a certain element of "How dare you do that while you were pretending to be me!") and it's going to be interesting to see which of those directions Faerber picks.

Resurrection #1 (Marc Guggenheim/David Dumeer; Oni Press)

As Guggenheim says in the letters column, the base concept behind the story is "What happens next?" What happens after all the aliens have been killed in "Independence Day", for example? All the capitals and major cities of the world have been substantially destroyed; millions upon millions have been killed. In Guggenheim's case, he says he was inspired by "V: The Final Battle", which is essentially the same situation, except that in the V miniserieses, considerably more was left intact. In this case, it looks as though while V may have been a source of inspiration, Independence Day was a more direct antecedent. The aliens and the humans have been fighting across the surface of the world for over a decade, driving humans to live in underground bunkers the past few years. Oddly, later in the story, we discover that the aliens were here for considerably longer before fighting broke out, making one wonder why this all happened. (You also wnder how people have survived; it's clear that there can't have been any agriculture or manufacturing or transport during the worst of the wars, and this would have been the case world wide. So how did they manage to live?)

People are, depressingly, pretty much what you think they'd be after spending years underground. A gunfight nearly breaks out among some of the first to emerge. Sara, a youngish woman, gets disgusted by them all and sets out to walk to Washington DC, to see if anything is left. The government, it turns out, has been moved to, apparently, Berlin, New Hampshire, but Sara doesnt know that. On the way, she decides first to visit her son, and she happens to run into Ben, another refugee, and they decide to travel together.

I am, I must admit, very curious to see where this story goes. To see just how far "what happens next" can go. Dumeer's black and white art works really well most of the time, although there are places where he uses shadows in a way that make people faces look very eerie, in a way that the story doesn't quite seem to support. Are we meant to think of these people as creepy in that way? I guess we'll find out.

I do wonder how long this series is meant to run. Guggenheim's comments sound as though he's got a specific endpoint planned, and I suspect this may be more enjoyable as a whole than as a serial. Any road, recommended.


The Infinite Horizon #1 (Gerry Duggan/Phil Moto; Image)
Retelling the story of the Odyssey, updated to the modern day. In this story a soldier identified only as "The Captain" is in Syria, fighting what appears to be an ever expanding, never-ending war of the US versus the Middle East, when suddenly the entire world goes to hell in a handbasket. And through all of this, the Captain needs to get his men back home, through intractably hostile territory. Meanwhile, back at home, his wife Penelope tries to keep things going, standing between neighbors hostile to each other, but not to her. However far in the future this is, it appears that the water situation in this country has gotten peculiarly bad, perhaps due to some war-related cause we haven't yet seen or due to global warming; peculiar because absent major weather changes, the Catskills in New York shouldn't be experiencing the sorts of water shortages that would bring people to blows. (Then again, neither should Georgia in the here and now, and we all know how that's going, so maybe not so far fetched after all.)

Honestly, nothing about this story really grabbed me all that much. Part of it is just typical first-chapter expositionitis; we need to get at least a general idea of who people are and what's going on, and there's not a lot you can do to avoid exposition dumps for that. Part of it is that the art is so stylized that it doesn't quite feel like a good match to the story to me -- although, that said, I think the artist may be trying to faintly echo ancient Greek art, which makes sense.

I don't know if I'm curious enough to see what happens in issue 2, despite the fact that a lot more ought to be happening -- and it's not as though a lot didn't happen in issue 1, expositionitis or not. Just not my taste, I suspect.


Will Eisner's The Spirit #11, "Day of the Dead" (Cooke/Bone/Stewart; DC):
In which the interminable zombie plot finally comes to an end. And, to be fair, a very satisfying grand-guignol sort of end. And hey! there's a gay couple! This being a superhero story, they end about as well as you'd expect, especially given that they're one-shot supporting characters.

The story is a hard leadout from issue 10, starting with Ebony bandaging Denny's injuries from the beating he took at Montez' hands last issue. The story takes place on the night of November 2, el Dia de los Muertos, very appropriate to undead like Montez and Denny Colt, as Denny himself notes. Ellen goes to see a former fiancee, name of Argonaut Bones (...and, you know, after Ginger Coffee, the names in this series shouldn't get to me, but still, how can you not roll your eyes a little at that?). She's gone to see him because he's the most knowledgeable person she knows on the topic of folklore and zombies. He doesn't entirely believe her, but decides to go with her, and, of course, is rapidly made to believe by the zombie infestation spreading across the middle of Central City. It turns out that Argo and Ellen wind up being key elements of the story. (The nice thing about Ellen, overall, is that she's not merely a damsel to be distressed and rescued; in fact, she's been unusually UN-distressed, for a superhero's girlfriend, through the course of this series. She doesn't actually appear a lot, but when she dies, she's usually fairly important in the story.) This issue does form a reasonably satisfying ending to the Montez arc -- though perhaps it might leave Denny with a few psychological issues relating to his ongoing semi-zombiehood.

I am beginning to wonder if maybe I've just read the wrong stories in forming my opinion of what Eisner's Spirit actually was. This is the second time in four issues where you could reasonably approach Cooke's version by talking about the sheer overwhelming body count -- not just of the zombies, but of all the people they kill. Central City's police department, especially, has had the crap hammered out of it in those two issues; you wonder if anyone but Chief Dolan is even still alive. That, combined with the casual approach taken in the original issues of The Twelve (see above) to heroes killing off the bad guys makes me wonder if maybe there are a lot of issues that Eisner wrote where Denny does in the criminals then goes out singing a jaunty version of "Je ne regrette rien". And also makes me wonder if Frank Miller's approach to the film maybe isn't as wrongheaded as it sounds. Then I think, "Six villains! One movie!" and I get over that, at least. But I digress.


Dan Dare #1 (Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine; Virgin Comics)
Man, Ennis can be fun to read in a good old-fashioned comics way, when he decides to indulge himself.

"Dan Dare" resurrects an old British title, much as Ennis did last year with Battler Britton for DC/Wildstorm. Dan Dare himself was an international space pilot, back in the day. He fought the good fight, then retired (to a most surprising place) when Britain changed into something that he could no longer fight for. In the meantime, the rest of the world went to hell, with nuclear war bustin' out all over, and Britain surviving only because they had an effective SDI. The US is essentially a land of blasted craters where cities ought to be, as are Canada and Mexico. In any event, it turns out that the beings that Britain thought they'd defeated back in Dan Dare's day are still very much alive, and have retrenched to become more effective enemies. The British go to Dan Dare to recruit him to rejoin the fight, and of course he eventually agrees, because we wouldn't have any story if he didn't. Erskine's art is just perfect, matching that sort of old-time storytelling while being perfectly clean and modern. Looks like the story is going to be good old fashioned space-fighting fun. (So to speak.) Highly recommended.


Purchased but not reviewed: The Overman #1, Northlanders #1 -- I think I need to see issue 2 of both of those before I can express an opinion.
Well, I have a hole in my jaw, so I might as well write a review or two. Although apparently my mad spelling skillz has gone to hell and back, so heaven only knows what it'll look like. You wuz warned.


Shade, the Changing Man: The American Scream (Peter Milligan et al)

I tried. I really did try. But there are not enough drugs in the entire world to get me through this one -- and if there were, they'd be so strong that I'd be afraid to take them. Seriously, I liked Enigma, one of Peter Milligan's previous "oh, what nice shiny drugs THOSE must have been!" works. It had some interesting ruminations on the nature of sex and sexuality and reality and narrative and all sorts of fun stuff. And I think that Shade comes back to those last two themes, and throws in the nature of madness and history and psychology into the mix on top of it. I think. But the treatment is so surrealistic and difficult to get through that I just can't do it. Alas. Your mileage may vary.


The Escapists 5 of 6 (Brian K. Vaughn et al)

Oh ... OH ... I have no idea where it's going after this, but I hope it's not where it looks like. In any event, the next-to-last installment is really gripping and interesting, and I really want to see what's going to happen next ... I think.


Astro City: The Dark Age vol 2 issue 1 (Busiek, Anderson et al)

I love the sorts of stories where you get to see what it's like to be a normal person in a city of superheroes. We catch up with Royal and Charles a few years after the end of the last volume. One brother is married, one alone. Both brothers find themselves in a city where the superheroes seem to have become seriously ... unmoored. They don't care about the means and methods they use, they don't care about actual justice, and they don't care very much about ancillary damage to innocent (comparatively speaking) bystanders. And the last page lets you know that there's a lot more pain to come for the brothers. Highly recommended.


Casanova issue 6: Women and Men, part 1 (Fraction/Ba)

I really love this series, with its 60s spy movies attacked by 60s science fiction yanked kinda sorta into the modern day ethos. This is the first issue in which all sorts of dangling threads -- which you didn't realize actually were dangling -- get yanked back into play. (And if I were a different type of person, or perhaps relentlessly adolescent and straight, I'd also say, "And it's got boobies!" Because it does. But I digress.) It's going to be interesting to see how they pull everything together in the next issue to close the first volume. (Apparently, despite the fact that Casanova is the second title in the Image Slimline format, after Warren Ellis' Fell, there actually will be a trade of Casanova in the vaguely near future, whereas Ellis has said that either there won't be a Fell trade, or that it will be way far off in the future.)


Jack of Fables 5 (Willingham et al)

The issue that ends the first volume in a somewhat surprising way. And it's pretty much impossible to say one word about it without spoiling the entire thing, so all I'll say is that I'm looking forward to seeing what happens after the break.


Invincible 36 (Kirkman/Ottley)

You know, enough other things happen in Invincible that it's easy to forget that it's a superhero title -- that is, a "fight comic". And we've hit one of those issues that sets up The Big Fight To Come. At this point, there are really only two or three ways it can go, and all of them are kind of irritating -- one considerably more than the others -- but eventually, the fight will be over, and we'll get to see what's happening in the rest of Mark's life. I do like seeing Mark trying to strike a balnce between superheroing and the rest of his life; it's just that, to me, the rest of his life is so much more interesting ...


Fables 55 (Willingham et al)

In which they continue to set up the end game, which now looks like it's going to be slightly more subtle than it started out to be. It's going to be fun to see how this chess game plays out.


Red Menace issue 1 of 6 (Bilson/DeMeo/Brody/Ordway/Vey)

Interesting how there seems to be an explosion in various media of stories based on McCarthy and his red-baiting quest for a government dictated political orthodoxy.

Just noticing, that's all.

Anyway, in the first issue, McCarthy tries to get American Eagle to tell the House Unamerican Activities Committee not only who the other heroes in the League of Heroes are, but also what their secret identities are. The Eagle refuses, although he does unmask to reveal that he's Steve Tremaine, a well known war veteran and decorated hero. It seems that he's spiked McCarthy's guns, but unfortunately, back in the days when we actually liked and worked with the Soviet Union, Tremaine made friends with a man who later became one of the leaders of the Soviets. An apparently innocent drink then becomes a clear example of Communist sympathizer activity.

Red Menace features very good writing, and good artwork. I half expected them to make it look like a silver-age comic, given when it takes place, but they resisted that temptation. I'll be very curious to see where the story goes, given the cliffhanger place where it left off.


The Damaged (a10comics.com, McKee/Bright/Lynx Studio)

A meteor shower strikes Earth -- sort of -- bringing in its wake all sorts of interesting events. Many of them happen to the unsubtly named Gabriel Millstone, who has basically a day out of his worst nightmares and then some. And, again, aside from noting that Gabriel's very bad day begins when one of the meteorites holes the hood of his car in his driveway and smooshes a goodly chunk of his engine, it's pretty much impossible to discuss the storyline without giving away important story points. I will say that it's almost, but not quite, an all-ages title; a couple of things are just scary enough that you'd probably want to make sure any readers were older than, say, ten or so before you let them read it. Interesting, if not necessarily recommended. I'll probably pick up issue 2, just because, but it's not particularly distinguished at this point.
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