Strange Horizons Columns: boo., by Iain Jackson:
What scares you?

I've been thinking about this a bit, after the last piece. I mean, the idea behind zombies is that they're supposed to be scary, right? You read about the zombies, and you suddenly feel the urge to hang around brightly lit rooms with lots of people while looking carefully for bite marks on their scalps, right? Only . . . not so much, it turns out. The zombies, as such, just weren't all that scary. So I looked at a few other comics, with ghoulies and ghaesties and things that go bump in the night, and none of them are particularly fearsome—at least, the supernatural paranormal spooky bits weren't. But if I go to a horror movie, or if I read the right kind of prose fiction, I can be plenty scared. There's a reason that I stay away from Stephen King and Clive Barker and other such authors, after all. There's a reason why I have to be poked and prodded and repeatedly importuned to see 28 Days Later or Cloverfield or Teeth or Alvin and the Chipmunks (. . . OK, I actually couldn't be poked or prodded or importuned enough to see that—one does have one's limits, after all). You simply can't pay me enough to listen to most horror audio plays or audiobooks. So why is it that horror on film or in books or audio works, and horror in comics just kind of . . . lies there?

I think, myself, that the difference is in how they work on your mind....
Strange Horizons: Zombie Kings Sing Songs of BRAAAAAAAINS!

Spiderman in Marvel Zombies: Dead Days

I hate Robert Freakin' Kirkman.

No, wait: that's not quite right. After all, I really do like Invincible and some of his other stuff. I just hate that his foray into zombie comics has apparently been so wildly successful that zombie comics are suddenly everywhere. (Yes, it's all his fault. One must blame someone, after all.) Everyone's trying for their own unique—or sometimes not so unique—take on the whole zombie thing. But why so much? Why now? Why everyone?

I have a theory. Now, it's coming completely out of the air, and no doubt displaying a fine ignorance of history, religion, psychology, sociology, and several other -ologies, but bear with me....

For once, an article came out almost, if not quite exactly, the way I wanted it to. It missed on the tone a little -- I kind of wanted it to be a little frothier, but I think I just can't do "comparative review" and "frothy" in the same piece. Nonetheless, it's not quite as scholarly-feeling as the previous articles. And I think the lesson -- alas, not a really useful one -- is that if you get an idea for a piece really early, and then you keep thinking, "Oh, I'm not ready for that, I can't make it work," and you keep shoving it away until you're finally cornered because you can't think of anything else, it may turn out that your brain has been quietly working on it in the background, and it'll be the easiest thing you've written so far, and completely spoil the process from here on in, because you know nothing else will be that easy again.

And now, the thing that has been running through my head ever since I started seriously working on this article. (I promise, it's relevant. For certain values of "relevant.")

First, you need this:

From WOWIO: A downloadable PDF of a comic mentioned in the review.

Then there's this:

And now ... mi mi mi mi miii... ahem.

Jesus hates zombies
His Papa hates zombies
Not just decay from 'em
Or the bouquet of 'em
Too late to pray for 'em
[THWACK!] [1]

Jesus hates zombies (Jesus hates zombies)
His Papa hates zombies (Papa hates zombies)
Jesus swings his big bat
Smacks 'em so very flat
Shouting "Die, die, hellcat!

He bats fast
Slices slow
Bat swings high
Sword goes low

He goes left
Laz goes right [2]
Looks round for Laz
But he's no longer in sight

Jesus hates zombies
His papa hates zombies
Can't find a place to sleep
Even the jail's a heap
All filled with zombie creep

...and, you know, more in that vein. I know it's not really funny, but it was just ... there, and the meter of the titles matched, and it Would. Not. Leave. Me. ALONE. I promise, it makes a great deal more sense once you actually read Jesus Hates Zombies.

I came thisclose to actually putting this in the piece. Seriously, THISCLOSE!

[1] Imagine the sound of a baseball bat meeting, say, a really big, not quite ripe, pumpkin.
[2] Lazarus is the name of the zombies that Jesus spares and travels with. See, it turns out that 29/37ths of the world has been converted into zombies by a disease, and of the remaining 8/37ths, many of them are ... well, they're just not right. Not at all right. And it turns out that Jesus derives his powers from the people who believe in him. And the only person he can find who still believes is a zombie, so it winds up being weirdly important for Lazarus to remain unthwacked, as it were. (There are, needless to say, both a bat and a sword in His NonHeavenly Arsenal. Also, turns out He has a heart tattoo on His Butt reading "Mags". Make of that what you will.)
iainpj: (Default)
( Apr. 8th, 2008 03:38 pm)
Oh, so THIS is what the "Whatever" GN is: KARL STEVENS - The Phoenix

And regarding what I said in that review about Dave Stewart's Zombie Broadway aspiring to be a B-movie? Make that a B-Movie Musical.
Holmes (Omaha Perez; AIT/Planet Lar graphic novel): A story of Sherlock Holmes, narrated by John Watson. Perfectly normal, right? Exactly what you expect a Holmes story to be ... only not quite. In this case, we discover that HOlmes is seriously into drugs and may or may not be a touch unbalanced, and Watson is a man of mighty mighty appetites, who manages to clean up the stories considerably to present the both of them in a much better light before committing the stories to print. In this case, the skull of composer Joseph Haydn is stolen from a graveyard (a true event), and somehow winds up in London. Holmes immediately fixates on Moriarty as a possible suspect in the theft. Along the way to the solution, we make stops in the British Museum (it gets broken -- again), a bar with Holmes in very very bad drag, an opium den, a brothel (Watson is not only a man of mighty appetites, he also has -- to be a bit Victorian about it -- a mighty truncheon and he likes to use it), and of course back on Baker Street, where we discover that Mrs Hudson is a very longsuffering landlady indeed. The highly stylized art works well to convey the inner insanity of the story, and it's a fun read from beginning to end. A Very Good story.

Dan Dare #5 "The lights of a perverted science" (Garth Ennis/Gary Erskine; Virgin): In which Dan Dare is just as noble as you think he is, Sub-Commander Christian begins to have a teensy bit more confidence in herself and the very good decisions she's made lately, and we see that teleporting into an unknown space can be a truly awful idea (in a scene that somehow manages to be horrifying and a little funny, all at once). Ennis does this sort of old-style space opera really well, updating it ina way that manages to let you know what the appeal was at the time and still making it work today. Excellent.

Anna Mercury #1 (Warren Ellis/Facundo Percio):

Anna Mercury is an agent for Launchpad, whatever that is, in New Ataraxia. She wears a suit that provides an induction field that she is under strict instructions not to use on people, so of course, she does it all the time. Sheol City seems to have secceded from New Ataraxia, which has taken that very badly, testfiring "the gun" on the bridge to Sheol. Anna has to figure out a way to prevent the gun from being lifted to Pendragon Moon, or to disable it, so that it can't be used against all of Sheol City. In the meantime, it turns out... well. I can't tell you that part, or it gives away the whole game. Let's just say that the last page realigns everything that you think you've seen.

The artwork and production design are seriously gorgeous. It's sort of Twenties, Art-Deco inflected. Anna Mercury herself has the most amazing masses of red hair. Anna Mercury herself is ... she reminds me of someone, the way she acts, but I can't quite figure out who it is. She's quite assured and self-confident, very take-no-prisoners attitude, and doesn't tolerate any sort of dissension from people on her own side.

Ellis and Percio have created a very interesting and dynamic world. It's going to be interesting to see where they're going to take it. (And, honestly, I'm looking forward to the issue 2 explanation that's certain to follow, given that last page.) Excellent; highly recommended.

Project: Superpowers #2 (but really #3) (Alex Ross, Jim Krueger/Carlos Paul; Dynamite):
In which the story moves along briskly. The Black Terror joins the fight on the rooftop against Dynamic Forces, and other heroes start appearing around the world. It's a lot of fun, and gorgeous to look at. That said, the cover is seriously misleading; the Death-Defying Devil and the Flame are the latest heroes to appear, but they're not the focus of the story, with maybe five or six total pages of the whole devoted to them. Very Good; Recommended.

However, herewith a small note: This title desperately needs a new logo. A logo that actually said "Project Superpowers" might be nice. (It gets shelved under S in the store I go to, which threw me at first; shouldn't it be under P? But no, because of that near-invisible S in the middle of the cover.) A larger, more distinctive logo that doesn't get lost when you've got a background of similar colors, as with this issue, would be good. A logo that's at least as prominent as the subsidiary character logos that have been appearing on each issue would be good. For that matter, if they're going to put characters and their logo on the cover, it would be a good idea if they actually appeared in more than a quarter of the story.

Kick-Ass #2 (Mark Millar/John Romita; Marvel Icon): In which Dave spends most of the issue recovering from the titanic beatdown he got last issue -- including being stabbed, being hit by a car, and a broken spine, resulting in a very long hospital stay, a very long rehabilitation at home, and terribly spectacular hospital bills -- and then, having recovered, he goes out and does it all again, and gets beat up again. Honestly, the character is kind of incomprehensible at this point. He spends most of the issue upset about what he's put his father through, deciding that he's never going to be that stupid again, and then he goes out and does it all over again, because he can't stop. Apparently, being a very non-super hero is an addiction. Who knew? All that said, the story is weirdly compelling -- kind of like a train wreck. You kind of want to understand why he does what he does, but at the same time, it's hard to care, because he's being such an IDIOT. I honest have no idea whether or not I'm going to pick up issue 3 at this point. It's hard to care about a human of very little brain, you know?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #13 "Wolves at the Gate, part 2" (Drew Goddard/Georges Jeanty; Dark Horse): Honestly, this is the first issue where I thought that the plot went CLANK, as though they were moving pieces because they needed people to be in a particular place at a particular time, and they sort of had to get them there through brute force. I mean, we discover that after Anya's death, Xander needed some "man time", so he went to stay with Dracula for a while. Right. He went to stay with a person whose defining characteristic in their relationship was that he controlled Xander's mind. And apparently, the thing between Robin Wood and Faith must have ended almost immediately, since he wasn't around to help with the whole "man time" issue. Elsewhere, Willow grills Buffy's booty call about what Buffy was like in the sack which ... no. Just ... no. All this seems to be in aid of getting the slayer army to Tokyo and out of the castle, to set up ... whatever it's setting up. Jeanty's artwork is perfectly good, but the writing doesn't serve it well. Really not a great issue.

Dave Stewart's Zombie Broadway (David Harris, Christine Schenley/Devaki Neogi; Virgin):

A 56-page one-shot that's very ... well, it's ... it tries to ... look, it's a hot mess, ok? But it's a fun hot mess!

Somehow, some way, New York -- and apparently only New York -- has been attacked by a zombie plague disease. People catch it through physical contact with the zombies -- usually through the odd chomp. (Strangely, these zombies seem a bit less BRAAAAIN-centric than most of their type.) New York is down to two thousand people, and the president is about to order a nuclear strike on the city to get rid of all the zombies -- and somewhat incidentally, the surviving humans -- when it's discovered that music does, indeed, soothe the savage breast. That is, zombies seem to respond to music. And the director convinces the president to let him try to save the city by putting on a musical! ... no, really, that's what happens. Think "Andy Hardy" on a really big scale, only instead of a gung-ho farm boy, Andy is a sort of jaded soldier, and Judy Garland's ingenue is ... well, an ingenue, only with less actual singing. The conservative military and other people want to just go ahead and nuke the liberal sons-of-bitches off the earth anyway, but the president thinks they should give it a chance. We have a couple of romances (sort of), the damaged military veteran who may be looking for a reason to live or a way to die, the plucky ingenue, the jaded star, the slightly corrupt director in lust with the jaded star and possibly others ... really, all the stock characters are there.

You know those B-movies that SciFi televises? Those movies that are so desperately tacky that they sometimes give the very concept of "B-movies" a bad name? This aims kind of south of that. Maybe a D-movie. (But given the co-production agreement between Virgin Comics and SciFi, I wouldn't be terribly astonshed to see this become one of their movies.) The artwork fits the story, and it's a breezy fun read. Just, you know, not a story to think too much about. OK, but fun.
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.
Welcome to Tranquility 10-11 (Gail Simone/Neil Googe; Wildstorm Universe):
...OK, I will admit that the end to issue 10 took me completely by surprise; I would not for even a second have expected them to go there. Issue 11, I'm sort of "meh" on. Partly, I just wish this goddamn zombie plot would be DONE. I hate zombies. I am one with the hate of zombiekind. But I can deal with the plague of zombies in this title, because I love it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. On the other hand, not entirely loving Thomasina's characterization in issue 11; it really does seem like her reaction to discovering what became of her grandfather was ... off, a bit. Granted, I understand her feeling that the information was sort of irrelevant, and that she just wants to know what she needs to defeat the zombie plague. Still, given that the information about what happened to him wasn't coming directly from him, but from someone else she trusts, it really does seem like she should have given it at least a little more credence.

Something of a sidenote --I ran across the following at Occasional Superheroine's weblog:
Anti-Semitic Comment In "Countdown" #32?...right off that bat, if you want to make comparisons between different characters in your comic and you put the Old & New Testaments in there, you're already sort of in the danger zone in terms of offending someone. If the symbolism was indeed there in this "Countdown" story that evil Eclipso = Old Testament and Good Spectre = New Testament, then you've got some problems. [...] It's verrrrry complicated. We tended not to use overt religious stuff in our books at DC. This is why.

Tranquility has now gotten rather explicitly religious, probably as part of the lead in to Armageddon/Revelations.

DC's Countdown is headed to Final Crisis by way of a miniseries called "Salvation Run".

The entire Wildstorm superhero universe is headed to its own final crisis via the paired, title-abolishing miniseres "Armageddon" and "Revelations".

I think DC may have decided that they really don't care about offending people's religious principles any more. I'm not saying that's bad, necessarily; it's certainly unexpected.

As far as can be told from solicitation copy, Welcome to Tranquility may have been stealth-cancelled, without official notice in Previews; on the other hand, they may be delaying it to figure out what to do with it once Simone takes over Wonder Woman. One can hope anyway. I do think the title has been rather spectacularly mishandled ... but more about that elsewhere, elsewhen, belike.

Umbrella Academy Apocalypse Suite 1-2 of 6 (Gerard Way/Gabriel Ba; Dark Horse)
I had what turned out to be an odd advantage coming to this title. I'd never heard of Gerard Way, never really paid attention to My Chemical Romance, so I didn't come to it with any particular preconceptions about whether or not he could write, as others seem to. And that turned out to be a good thing, because this is definitely a fun read.

On the same day, dozens of mutant children are born in an instant to women around the world, many of whom hadn't actually been pregnant until that moment. Professor Hargreaves adopts as many of these infants as he can find, eventually winding up with seven children to raise. It becomes fairly clear that Hargreaves is a rather dreadful father; mostly he wants to use them to demostrate his scientific principles regarding their superpowers. Then we jump 10 years into the future, where the kids are fighting the renegade Eiffel Tower. (No, really. Renegade Eiffel Tower, rampaging through Paris.) Then we jump forward another 20 years, where the group is gathering to find out if it's true that their father is dead. Issue 2 takes up from where issue 1 leaves off, with everyone gathering for the funeral. It's clear that there was some sort of dramatic break between the children and with their father; they can scarcely stand the sight of one another. Their mother, or rather, Professor Hargreaves' wife -- she at least seems to have been married to him -- she's very ... well. She's quite unusual, let's put it that way. And, of course, it turns out that she'd been estranged from the professor as well. And the seventh child, Vanya, whom the professor thought untalented turns out to have a very subtle power; she was so profoundly alienated, however, that she didn't even return for the funeral.

Ba's art is absolutely perfect for this series. I honestly can't imagine that anyone else would do better or be more appropriate for a story that's simultaneously this loopy and this serious. It wouldn't work with a more realistic style -- the characters would look utterly absurd drawn in a more realistic way. His art brings out the humor in the characters without making them ridiculous.

It's really a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

Atomic Robo #1 (Brian Clevinger/Scott Wegener; Red 5 Comics)
Big Robot with odd sense of humor going up against Nazis. What's not to like? Seriously, it's just good pulpy fun. The art is dynamic and colorful and matches the story well. Recommended for people who like fight comix fun (and you do have to like the fight comix, since it's basically an issue length fight).

Manhunter: Origins (Andreyko/Pina/Blanco; DC)
I would like to make a suggestion to the big companies. Whenever you have one of those mondo-crossover events, and you decide to compile an individual title's issues, if the character has been off doing something in another title, please insert two or three pages summarizing what they were doing, maybe with a frame or two from the other titles. "Manhunter: Origins" is sharply discontinuous in one section; they don't even put in a note saying, "To see what Kate was doing, you need to read 52 or Crise du Jour" or whatever title it was she was doing ... whatever she was doing. In any event, apart from that, it's an interesting read.

This volume takes its title from its bookend stories. The first concerns the origins of the Manhunter uniform and weapons; the last the origins of Kate herself. The latter story is, understandably, much more interesting.

It's very strange to have one of the DC universe's heroes who really has very few qualms about killing off the villains. Moreover, the other DC universe superheroes she comes in contact with don't necessarily seem to mind all that much. You do wonder, though, why it is that she seems to be able to do this almost without personal consequence. Most people would find it more difficult to kill than she seems to, even knowing what those people have done. Another oddness; almost everyone on the planet seems to know that Kate Spencer is Manhunter,including the odd villain, yet nobody seems to be telling. And even so, her loved ones wind up in harms way with surprising frequency.

Her supporting cast is great. Chase and Dylan have their ... whatever it is they're doing, in which Dylan is mostly amused and grateful, and Chase is terribly confused. Damon and Todd continue their relationship, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody's dead or creatively mangled as yet. And it's fun to watch Kate squirm when she gets forced to defend one of those villains in court. All in all, highly recommended. Someday, volume 4 will come out. And, in theory, someday there will be more issues of Mahnunter, which DC says is being stockpiled so that it can have a more continuous printing schedule. (One wonders why they don't do that with their other titles.)

Ah, well. We can dream, can't we?


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