Category Archives: Our Underwear

It's just so... nebulous!

Our Underwear #17: Jeers and Loafing in McCormick Place Part I: The Pleasure and Pain of Richard Starkings

by John Velousis
(Supposedly the first in a series about C2E2 2012)

Doctor Johnny Fever
The Crab Nebula. It’s the best nebula.

1: Quirky – or jerky?
Press credentials approved. “What the fuck,” I thought, “am I going to do to ‘cover’ a comic book convention?” See, [amazon_link id="B0000TB014" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]I’m not like other boys[/amazon_link]. My priorities and interests are just completely eccentric to the norm… I mean that in the mathematical sense.

Example: At the convention, talking with Matt Sardo. He’s the brave guy who saw a spark of promise in my delirious ramblings and asked me to [amazon_link id="B000RBA6CO" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]blerg[/amazon_link] about comyx. Although I refused utterly, he sneaks into my head while I’m sleeping, like, when I roll over and the [amazon_link id="1592910718" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]foil cap[/amazon_link] loosens, and then transcribes all of my wettest dreams. So, he and I were talking about things we were asking the creatives who were jam-packed [amazon_link id="B003L20IEM" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]ass-to-mouth[/amazon_link] in the Artists’ Alley at the horrible fucking concrete armpit of a building staging C2E2, McCormick Place. He – Sardo – said he’d been getting great responses with the question, “What should an up-and-comer do to start out / break into the comics business?”

I [amazon_link id="B000PWW3Y4" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]grimaced[/amazon_link] involuntarily. “Really? I would think they’d all been asked that question thousands of times. Like, as if it was a stereotype jokey question to ask.”

Now Matt was frowning. “No, they all seemed to like it and gave thoughtful, interesting answers.” He seemed defensive. His face had a sour expression, as if he’d just bitten into a crab-apple.

I started to backpedal. “I mean, I’m not, you know, trying to say that, like, as if to say, ‘Dude, that question sucked! You suck!’ or something like that, it just, uh, surprises me that it’s not… You know, I should shut up.” I do this somewhat often, where I react to something that’s fairly normal or conventional as if only an interview with the quality and sensibilities of the movie [amazon_link id="B003U74NQW" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Blue Velvet[/amazon_link] will suffice. Then, I notice for the umpteenth or maybe the ununocteenth time that I’m kind of being a dick. Which I hate being by accident.

Meanwhile, back in the camel-hump hollow that the dames call reality, Mr. Sardo asked, “What have YOU been asking people?”

“I’ve been trying to ask everybody the stupidest questions I could think of.”

2: Our hero discovers that time seems to only move in one direction, but not which one it is.
I tried to pre-plan. I had some half formed ideas of shit to do at the con to justify my attendance. Maybe I would read the French guy’s “Tab Jones! WHO IS THIS TAB JONES?” rant from Bukowski’s [amazon_link id="0876857632" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Hollywood[/amazon_link]. “He really sings badly, I mean, he is terrible. All about what he can do to women, but he’s a fake, he really wants his tongue up some man’s anus. I am to puke, listening to him.” Hilarious bile, and I really do it up a treat with the French accent. It’s too hard for me to do without cracking myself up, though, and I pride myself upon my inscrutable deadpan.

It’s just so… nebulous!

I also considered trying to really nail Aaron’s “I heart evil” speech from [amazon_link id="B000E6ESKS" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Titus Andronicus[/amazon_link]. “Even now I curse the day[…] wherein I did not some notorious ill, as kill a man, or else devise his death[…] Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night, and bid the owners quench them with their tears.” Like that. Awesome speech, but it embarrasses me to even admit that I’m such a pretentious twat that I would consider this a good idea, however briefly. What the eff would I do, just recite the speech over and over, in a loop? Might as well learn it in fucking Klingon, so as to guarantee my removal from humankind.

I had even shittier ideas, too, but I’ll pretend for a moment that I have better things to do than make myself look like a jagoff.

Going to the con, walking in, my plan was to just plant myself at the Comic Vault table with some sort of sign that said, “I will argue with you about anything, from either side.”  That seemed to fit my skill-set perfectly, plus I really like to sit down.

All that shit got chucked out the window when I found myself standing in front of [amazon_link id="1401205739" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Gene Ha[/amazon_link], my “Press” badge not even CLOSE to believing its own press clippings. He seemed like a [amazon_link id="B000SVZIG2" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]SUPER[/amazon_link] nice guy. He was so nice, I was compelled (by Satan, obv) to ask him the least appropriate question that came to mind: “Have you ever drawn porn?” 3: I’m such a whiny little bitch that I wish I could run into myself on the street so I could kick my whiny little bitch ass.My point with all of this, honestly, is to just show you the degree of my disaffection, my ennui, about “covering” this convention. It isn’t that I don’t care about comic books or comics creators – I do, very much so. I hope THAT much is clear. Rather, I believe strongly in the edict, “Entertainment news is neither entertainment nor news.” In-depth conversations with creative persons about the soul of their works would excite me tremendously, but THIS wasn’t where such a thing could possibly happen.  Plus it may be that at the bottom of my heart, I suspected that I’d procrastinate doing actual articles online about the con for, say, four months or so.

It's the Crab Nebula.
Hubble telescope pictures often depress me. I don’t believe in God and am afraid of death, but most of the time I manage to avoid thinking about it. But when faced with the reality of a universe billions of years old, it’s hard not to feel like I’m nothing, nor to fear the certainty that I will one day become nothing.

Beyond that, I also tend to laze in a tub of anomie. (1. Social instability caused by erosion of standards and values.  2. Alienation and purposelessness experienced by a person or a class as a result of a lack of standards, values, or ideals.  Close enough,  though I’d say my problem stems from a paralyzing excess of standards, values, and ideals… which all carry zero currency in a meaningless world.) “Why should I go to this? How will I serve any kind of purpose doing so? Why anything? Have I really eaten seven different desserts today? I wonder if crabs are worse than [amazon_link id="B003Y12AV4" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]hemorrhoids[/amazon_link]?” Oh, the pain. The pain!

Once I committed to the idea of asking creators the stupidest questions I could think of… well, it didn’t go so great. Not that the artists and writers and misc-artisans weren’t cooperative – actually, they were all much nicer than I probably deserved, and made a game effort at politely answering every stupid thing I could think of. All of them, that is, except for [amazon_link id="140123254X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Nick Spencer[/amazon_link]… but that’s another column. Nah, it wasn’t them really, it was me.

I [amazon_link id="B001O2UTQS" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]choked[/amazon_link].

Really. I [amazon_link id="B004GJYRI2" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]screwed the pooch[/amazon_link]. I could not think of genuinely terrible questions to save my life. I had, I think, hoped to elicit some funny stories from these guys, but I didn’t. Some of that is maybe due to unrealistic expectations, based on my past as a performing artist. Financial failure though I was, I’ve still done a lot of interesting things, but only if you think being onstage with a dancing George Bush robot and wearing nothing but a diaper and a crown of thorns is interesting. Comic book artists… haven’t done that. The blame still rests on me for [amazon_link id="B007V4LBLU" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]shitting the bed[/amazon_link] here. My stupid questions were mostly just bland and repeated, and they drew a lot of not-very awesome answers. I fancy myself a pretty creative guy, but my idea-making biorhythm was AWOL that weekend. Pathetic, yeah? 4: Two guys walk into a bar. One of the guys is from the nation of Djibouti. The other guy doesn’t exist, and he’s in a wheelchair.
Richard Starkings is the creator of [amazon_link id="1607065762" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Elephantmen[/amazon_link]. He writes most of the stories in the series, and has had them illustrated by an impressive line-up of artists – [amazon_link id="1401216676" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Brian Bolland[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="1607063689" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Shaky Kane[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="B003JO6IBY" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Moritat[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="1607063999" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ian Churchill[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="0974056723" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]David Hine[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="1607064774" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Chris Burnham[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="B007S1PDTW" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Aaron Kuder[/amazon_link] (you probably haven’t heard of him yet, but you will,) [amazon_link id="1607060485" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Rob Steen[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="1935233173" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Tom Scioli[/amazon_link], and like three other guys who get left out because I ran out of the will to keep copying names. Also, because I don’t know how to make an umlaut on a computer.  Although the [amazon_link id="1607062682" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Elephantmen[/amazon_link] comic has been kicking ass in one form or another since 2002, Starkings has actually been pulling in a comics paycheck since 1984, as a [amazon_link id="0974056731" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]letterer[/amazon_link]. In fact, his credits as a letterer run about 30 times as long as his credits as a writer. I actually counted the number of times I had to click to scroll down one page – that is how fascinating I found this factoid, before I started typing it.

A recent cover by sometime-artist of Elephantmen Tom Scioli. There’s no image on this cover that is any more significant to this article than any other. No existential Dada conspiracy exists, and said non-cabal has no secret signs, signifiers, deeper meanings, heaps of gleanings, weepier teams, creepier dreams, or seepier seams.

One of the elements setting the series [amazon_link id="1607064685" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Elephantmen[/amazon_link] apart from the herd (YES!) is its elliptical storytelling style. The tale perpetually circles back upon itself in time and in perspective, revisiting the same events in the present repeatedly, often after flashing back some 20 or 30 years to the violent past of the human-animal hybrids called “elephantmen,” then reaching the present in the narrative orbit, the current event now illuminated by the history we’ve just seen.  The most recent issue, which just hit the racks two weeks ago, is Elephantmen #41. Written AND drawn by [amazon_link id="1607065835" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]David Hine[/amazon_link], it is essentially a flashback to events before the series began, a biography of the human rights criminal assistant-creator of the “munts,” Javier Kubec. I won’t review it here, because I’m already in the middle of a digression inside of another digression. Just check it out, it’s good. Elephantmen #42 hits the stands this coming Wednesday, August 15.  Only three weeks apart? Mr. Starkings may be taking a cue from frequent employer Marvel Comics: The faster you put the issues out, the more often you collect the proceeds.

The series also stampedes through the central [amazon_link id="0345404475" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]idea[/amazon_link] of one of my favorite films, [amazon_link id="B000UBMSB8" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Blade Runner[/amazon_link]: What is it to be a human being? Starkings and his collaborators acknowledge this debt openly. [amazon_link id="160706393X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Volume four[/amazon_link] of the series’ trade collections, and the arc within it, take their title, Questionable Things, directly from [amazon_link id="B008M4MB8K" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Blade Runner[/amazon_link]. In that film, the beautiful and insane android Roy Baty (Rutger Hauer) literally meets his maker, Dr. Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel,) and says to him in a masterpiece of understatement, “Father, I’ve done… questionable things.” Then, Roy shoves his thumbs through Tyrell’s eyes into his brain, because impending death has made him crabby. 5: Brock Chalcedony brooded at the Mojave as Countess Monique Loveglove all but begged for more thrusting huge manhood from the best spy in the world. But Chalcedony was done giving his really big dong of good sex at her. Now, his only thought was of revenge against the terrorist guy who had killed his daughter and son and other daughter. And revenge would be sweet and served cold – the best revenge!
Mr. Starkings is a big fan of dyed hair. I’ve seen pictures of the thinning tousle atop his head dyed every color of the [amazon_link id="B000YXMMAE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]rainbow[/amazon_link] – and also, dyed like a rainbow, perhaps [amazon_link id="B000NOKJF4" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]like the girl from the infamous Rolling Stones song[/amazon_link], perhaps like [amazon_link id="B0041G680U" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]the rainbow from The Wizard of Oz[/amazon_link]. At C2E2, his pate was its natural white-gray, but his long chin-muff was dyed a lovely [amazon_link id="B000000WH8" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]blue[/amazon_link]. I couldn’t think of any “[amazon_link id="B004D7SKQM" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Bluebeard[/amazon_link]” jokes good enough for publication, though. Add that to the litany of failure limned hereto.

Twinkle twinkle little nebula.
Why do you tinkle on my nephew, huh?

By the time I approached Richard Starkings, my list of insipid questions had become fairly standardized, as had my intro. First, I said, “Hi, I’m a fan of your work.” This was invariably true at the con. I didn’t question or approach a single creator whose work I didn’t genuinely enjoy… because I act according to a very strict code of standards, which my fool brain downloaded from the [amazon_link id="B00069L0Z4" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Bizarros[/amazon_link]. Then, I’d say something like, “I’m some sort of online reporter or blogger,” gesturing at my press badge for effect. “Do you mind if I ask you the stupidest questions I can think of?” All of them consented to answering stupid questions, without exception.

JV: Would you say you’ve been naked in public a lot, not often, or never at all?
Richard Starkings: Hmm. A few times. (British accent, maybe a little like Ian Holm.)

JV: Care to describe the times?
RS: Once, I stripped naked in Death Valley and ran across the sand dunes. Another time, on a private beach in Hawaii.

JV: Ehhh, that’s not really public.
RS: Yes it is. (He said this rather heatedly. I considered arguing with him about semantic context, but in a rare moment of common sense, I realized that the point wasn’t worth starting an altercation over, so I sidled along.)

JV: Do you sing karaoke in public often, never, sometimes…?
RS: Mm. No – ah, just once, I think.

JV: What was the song?
RS: “Love Shack.”

JV: The B-52s song? That is just a weird coincidence. I had this job where the owner of the company – a genuinely awful person – would ALWAYS sing “Love Shack” at company parties. Like, the single criterion any karaoke DJ had to meet to get hired, they had to have “Love Shack” on their playlist so that Martin K——– could sing Fred’s part. (At this point, I realized I was boring RS, his coterie, and myself.) Anyway. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
RS: Cleaning up what we called ‘beat waste’ at a supermarket.

JV: Beef?
RS: Beat.

JV: B-E-E-T? Red as a beet?
RS: No, B-E-A-T.

JV: Got it. (I think I forgot to ask what ‘beat waste’ was, exactly, just assuming it was the leavings from the butcher, which surely would have been a not-insignificant influence on the animal rights themes in “Elephantmen.” Online searches for the term are mixed. One personal anecdote has a “beat waste bin” full of old, rotten, un-bought market vegetables. Another extremely intriguing link has this exerpt: [Glue factories or tanners or something] also obtained beat waste materials, such as the rasjiioga and triuiniingr [may be spelled wrong] of ivory, [and / or] the boues [bones?], cartilage, and tendons of animals.” That piece is so haphazardly spelled and punctuated in general, though, that I can’t rule out the possibility that either “beat” or “waste” was intended to be a different word entirely.)

JV: Have you ever thrown up on another person?
RS: No. Well, one time in a hospital ambulance, I did vomit into one of those… (pause.)

JV: Bedpans?
RS: No, one of those kidney-shaped bins. (His zeal, which had perked up when he remembered that he kind of DID puke on someone, fades rapidly as he says this. Reading his eyes, it seems to me he is now recalling a dreadfully painful memory. I wrap up the ”interview” somehow and thank him for his time. Later, I will ask him to suggest stupid questions that he thinks I should ask, and he provides one – “If you were a taco filling, which would you be?” – that becomes a staple of my questioning for the rest of the con.)

(Richard Starkings would be pinto beans.)

"You can buy your Mr. Sinister posters at the corner of Sinister Road and Sinister Parkway - you know, in the Sinister District?" Art by Dustin Weaver, color by Jim Charalampidis, who has inflammation of the chair and lamp.

Our Underwear 16: Kieron Gillen, You Light Up My Life

In which I take Uncanny X-Men #14 and Journey Into Mystery #640 out for a spin.

By John Velousis

Part 1 – Gillen does nicely, thank you very much.

I’ve taken time in the past to praise Kieron Gillen’s work on [amazon_link id="078514840X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Journey Into Mystery[/amazon_link] – like, the distant past, when I used to post a lot. Perchance, is anybody reading this somebody who’s seen the movie [amazon_link id="B001KVZ6HK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Avengers[/amazon_link] but not read the comics much? Would that person be someone who doesn’t know that in current continuity, Loki’s been reborn as an 11-year-old who’s a lot nicer on account of he’s actually the god of mischief, not the god of evil? Well, if you’re such a person… nothing. I don’t have any specific message for you. Are you even still reading this? Hey, you know what’s REALLY crazy? Orphaned socks.

Yeah, so, since the git-go, I’ve been digging Gillen’s adorable tales of Loki-boy and his constant companion Leah, with whom he has a platonic relationship which involves fun bickering, but doesn’t involve anything like contemplation of adult sexual congress. That would just be unsettling, right? Well, Gillen doesn’t “go there,” proof positive that he has at least the very barest semblance of common sense, unlike myself. It’s, you know, like, good.

Say it in a Mark E. Smith voice – “Loki-ah is-ah shock-ed-ah.” Art by Richard Elson, color by Ifansyah Noor. That’s got to be a pseudonym, right? “I fancy I knew her”? “I fancy an whore”?

Gillen is also the writer of [amazon_link id="0785159932" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Uncanny X-Men[/amazon_link] these days, whence he also does a yeoman’s job of puking up decent tales. As destiny would have it, both books dropped today. I know that Jeff Parker feels it’s strange that books he writes seem to always get released on the same day, maybe a lot of comics writers do. When you’re putting out an issue of each comic every two weeks or so, though, that DOES raise the odds of such a confluence to 1-in-2, so… let’s all stop wearing pants or something. Here’s another thing that’s weird – there are pretty much NO book stores any more, but there are still comic book stores a-plenty. How can that even be? Like, books are $20 and comics are $3 to $4, you have to think more money gets made on books in general. Add in the ball-punch of comics having a much worse policy for returning unsold product (sorry, Dave Sim!) to distributors – basically, the policies would be described as: booksellers can return surplus for credit, and comic stores just can’t – and it seems completely counter-intuitive that the one outlet would continue scraping by while the other dies out. Also, comics are essentially distributed by a company with a monopoly on the business, which is un-American and makes it fucking hard to find a better deal elsewhere (because a better distributor doesn’t exist. Because comics are distributed by a monopoly. Are you following me with this? Wouldn’t you rather be masturbating?) I would speculate on the reasons for this, but I really had hoped not to spend any time writing this, ‘cause we just got [amazon_link id="B005LAIGPU" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Chronicle[/amazon_link] from Netflix and my wife hasn’t seen it yet. Awesome movie, BTW.

When anybody’s shown holding a skull, the depicter is ALWAYS doing an homage to “Hamlet” where the titular Dane Thane is waxing iambic about a guy who he used to know. Because the guy wasn’t always dead. Art by Stuart Immonen & Jim Charalampidis (“Cher, a lamp it is!”)

Getting down to brass tacks, the X-Men release of which I speak begins with one of Mr. Sinister’s umpteen clones in the underground city of Sinisterville (State of West Sinister, in the United Sinistates of Sinesteration – Sinestros need not apply) plotting the unthinkable: freedom! The kind of freedom Braveheart fought for before he got killed by cronies of Edward Jewshanks, if I recall correctly.

“You can buy your Mr. Sinister posters at the corner of Sinister Road and Sinister Parkway – you know, in the Sinister District?” Art by Dustin Weaver, color by Jim Charalampidis, who has inflammation of the chair and lamp.

I think that rocks. “I have a toothache of free will. It pains me. I would be sensible to be rid of it, but a man’s will is greater than sense.” Fuck yeah!  Sing that shit in the streets!  You’ve felt that way too, right? Like, “Man, if only I were a sheepy idiot like all of the rest of these sheepy idiots, maybe I wouldn’t be so shit-scared of the lack of an afterlife. Instead, I think for myself. Uh, yay?” Your own inner monologue may differ. You grok me?

The whole issue is a hoot, particularly in its myriad clever displays of Sinister’s work as a geneticist. For an example,  I would scan a panel of “the dogs,” but that wee delight ought not be spoilered. If you don’t read [amazon_link id="0785159959" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Uncanny X-Men[/amazon_link], I do hope that my words here have swayed you some. Because I’m quite fond of you, you know, and I wish good things upon your pull list.

 Part 2 – Arbitrarily chosen dividing point

The other KG-written graphic magazine storybook this week, [amazon_link id="078514840X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Journey Into Mystery[/amazon_link] (not Pederasty – Mystery!) strokes some happy veins in my memory. The story takes the previous issue’s incursion of the dark god Manchester into the fey faerie frippery of unicorns, unitards, and unibrows that is the magical kingdom of Otherworld, and ties said tale in with the lore of the real Manchester. In particular, with the real-life unsung Mancunian hero Tony Wilson, who is the subject of Mike Winterbottom’s movie masterpiece [amazon_link id="B00007BK2N" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]24 Hour Party People[/amazon_link]. If you haven’t seen that flick, you probably should. Anyhow, in the comic, Mr. Wilson is now Master Wilson after his IRL death a few years back, having been reluctantly canonized (in Marvel canon) by Manchester and tasked with crapping some verisimilitude into England’s dreamrealm (Otherworld,) in the form of the joys of yet more freedom. Kieron’s working a theme this week! Splendiferous!

He also shot Liberty Valence. Art credits same as other Loki pic, okay?

This delights me particularly because of the extraordinary heroism of Tony Wilson, who wrote in blood the founding document of Factory Records, a label whose mission statement defied the raison d’etre of most labels by refusing to try to claim ANY ownership of its artists’ works. Is that the shiznit or what? Don’t answer. YES IT IS. So, Gillen takes this secular saint and does right by him. Along the way, Mr. Gillen points out that Manchester is (probably) the world’s first industrialized city – that has GOT to be why Alan Moore made Maxine Manchester a cyborg (or why he named a cyborg Manchester) – and he drops references to the Beatles’ hometown club (the Cavern Club,) to the Hacienda (Tony Wilson’s nightclub, hilariously unprofitable despite its Mank cultural enormity,) to this here grave: 

…and this nice bit of engineering:

One of the few pics without a copyright thing on it.
Stolen image. Stealy stealy, piggy squeally.

I haven’t been able to figure out what “some greenhouse in Northampton” is, though. If you know, do please clue me in in the comments area here. Or you could flame me, I like flame-wars too. Do what you want. FREEDOMMMMM!!!!!

FCBD bootay!

Our Underwear 15: Free (comic)dom Ain’t Free

by John Velousis

Aloha! I’m currently working on my needlessly huge and senselessly autobiographical coverage of C2E2 – Chicago’s major comic book convention which occurred… er, three weeks ago as of this writing. One of the things that happened there was that Comic Vault Overlord Matt Sardo exasperatingly exhorted me to, “Just write a three hundred word review! Do something! They don’t all have to be two thousand words!”

The top of my article had no images and was boring. Here's an image! Incidentally, I've been interviewing Jeff Parker over the course of the last, like, three months. If I ever finish, the result will probably clock in at fifteen thousand words, knowing me. He's WAY meaner than you'd think.

While I did scoffingly remind him that I’m not a comic book reviewer – I’m a critic – there is something to be said for continuing to exist as an online presence. SO! This.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY! Woot! I have to say Joe Field’s brainchild is unquestionably cool. It may be the saving grace of the field, in fact. I myself was dragged back to the wonderful world of comix (after stepping away for nearly 15 years) when a friend of mine who worked at a comic store pulled a bunch of comics for me on FCBD 2009. Since then, I’ve probably spent about ten thousand dollars on comics, graphic novels, and etc. One assumes that the industry wants that money.

Beyond me, though, is the possibility – dare I call it the hope? – that this promotion will grow the love of comics in people who AREN’T white men in their forties. You know – kids! As the accursed Big Two continue to try to kill the golden goose that is the Loyal Comics Customer by pandering to idiots who think buying #1 issues of everything will somehow make them a profit, this holiday does the opposite. It attempts to let the works themselves be the draw upon readers and would-be readers. In any business, one should always play the long game. Kid readers now are gonna be grown-up readers in the future. THEY that are captured in the wonder of the medium will be the cherished product consumers of tomorrow, whereas collected trade paperbacks of Red Hood and the Outlaws will not sell for diddly-shit, notwithstanding the amazing “collectible value” supposedly added by being volume one.

Anyhow, I went out from store to store yesterday picking up my free comics… and spent a hundred bucks I wouldn’t have spent otherwise. Well, not specifically yesterday, anyhow.  I would have inevitably bought a copy of [amazon_link id="0977030490" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Duncan the Wonder Dog[/amazon_link] now that it’s back in print – although I may have bought one from Amazon for $16 instead of the full retail $25 at one of my LCBS’s. If you haven’t heard about [amazon_link id="0977030490" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Duncan the Wonder Dog[/amazon_link], hot damn tamale, get on board! It’s an amazing and astonishing work, funny, horrifying, mind-boggling, and infused with the mathematics of philosophy and the philosophy of mathematics – subjects everybody loves to see in hyper-realistic comics with talking animals. Rather than get sidetracked talking about how much I wuv this 392-page book (that you can get for $25!!!), here’s a link to Laura Hudson’s outstanding article on it, the article that explained why Duncan… was the Comics Alliance’s #1 Best Comic of 2010. Egomaniac though I pretend to be only pretending to be, I have to admit that she does a much better job than I would have.

Likewise, sooner or later I surely would have bought the amazing first collection of Karl Kerschl’s webcomic The Abominable Charles Christopher - despite it not being sold on Amazon – but, I DID, in fact, buy it yesterday and not any other day ever.

All told, here is what I picked up on FCBD:

Also, this shows the color of one of the blankets on my bed.

And here is a pic of the FREE comics from above:

These 2 photos designed to be flipped back & forth. FUN!

Yow! I should point out that this year, the Midwest region (and maybe other regions, I dunno) was affected by an accident (that I THINK happened in Texas) where a driver in the wrong lane of traffic hit a Diamond Comics Distributors truck. The truck had been carrying books for FCBD, so there were less than usual everywhere. In the accident, the person who caused the crash died as a consequence, cheating the state of Texas out of his possible execution. The truck had two Diamond drivers, both of whom were injured in thankfully non-life-threatening ways.  SO, the stores I went to were shorter on books than usual, is my point here.

This is how the accident would have looked had it involved one car and a bunch of bicycles.

In fact one store had ONLY ONE free comic left to give out, [amazon_link id="1620100819" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Bad Medicine[/amazon_link], and that only because Christopher Mitten was there. He seemed like a nice guy, we chatted about how awful it is to have to avoid eye contact with comics creators whose stuff you DON’T read, and how glad I am that he’s somebody whose work (namely[amazon_link id="1595827463" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ] Criminal Macabre[/amazon_link]) is something I like. That was nice.

So, in conclusion, I just want to say that Free Comic Book Day is super-duper-cool, it’s the salvation of us all, and I’m still blogging here and not dead like Riddell always says. Aloha!

I don't even LIKE pot.

Our Underwear 14: On Words – and Up Words! (or, Engelbert Humperdink: Year One.)

by John Velousis

Parsing Carey and Gross’s [amazon_link id="1401225659" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Unwritten[/amazon_link], mostly [amazon_link id="B006UST3CC" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]issue 33[/amazon_link].

He's shoving a spear through a hole.
The Unwritten #33, cover by Yuko Shimizu

Part 1 – Slight return…

Hi! Sorry I’ve not posted anything in a month and a half, but I have an entirely valid excuse. I was bitten by a radioactive lazy, and consequently became super-lazy. I promise that it will most certainly happen again.

So, yeah, the (main) title of this piece tells you the subject. While I was cooking up this theme-setting paragraph in my head, I was veering towards talking about the delight that I take in words and wordplay; I was going to quote fucking “Stairway to Heaven” again (’Cause you know, sometimes words have two meanings,) and so forth, by way of introduction. BUT! As I was putting pen to paper,* I realized that doing the broad-intro thing was a way of shoe-horning myself into the dorky “upside-down triangle” style of essay-writing I was taught in elementary school. This simply will not do – I am not interested in the comfort of old paradigms. And that, folks, is the perfectly legit artistic reason why the endings of all of my posts seem abrupt and poorly planned.

Ah, fuck, I forgot that I’m supposed to write about comic books here.

*(Yep, my process involves holding an ink-device in my hand! and marking up a lined sheet of paper. God, I’m old.)

Part 2 – Take a breath, for example.

Who is the man who would hale himself for brother man?
Writer: Mike Carey  /   Pencil-Man: Peter Gross   /  “Finishes” – that’s inker, right?: M.K. Perker  /  Letters: Todd Klein  / Colors: Chris Chuckry

The panel above is the one that finally, really made The Unwritten click for me and, what’s more, sparked the impetus for this column. The fuse was the word “hales.”

Thought is memory. Memory is association. The Association was a vocal group that had pop music hits with the songs “Windy” and “Never, My Love” in the 60’s. The first vocal melody line from “Never, My Love” was swiped and repurposed for the song “Here Comes Your Man” by The Pixies. The Pixies were a band whose name referred, among other things, to the fact that all four members were five feet and two inches tall or shorter. I myself named my last band “The Huge Pontoons” in a nod to The Pixies, “Huge” because all three original members were six feet and one inch tall or taller. Okay now, breathe.

To “hail” is to summon, salute, greet. Hail a taxi. Hail to the Chief. But the Founding-Father-looking jamoke in the panel above says “hale,” spelled like the word meaning healthy (as in “hale and hearty”) or, more relevantly, like the word “inhale,” which means “to draw breath.” Our olde-timey spellynge fellowe above pushed my head to a deeper meaning.  To “in hale” = to summon air within, to invite it in. This interpretation of the word “inhale” anthropomorphizes the air – we’re asking it to please come in. This connection of words is certainly not purposeless. I ask myself, what is air that is a living thing? Would one call such a thing a soul? In the context of The Unwritten as a whole, such a canonization of the inanimate is entirely appropriate, since the book’s central figure, Tom Taylor, may literally be The Word Made Flesh.

They can't all be Jesuses, ya know?
I wish I could remember where I got this from. Somewhere on the internet, I think.

Language is a miracle. It creates a being above mere being, for it holds the mechanism whereby we may ascribe meaning. The written word, in turn, is a miracle on top of a miracle – language given immortality. And words added to pictures, as in comics… they’re just outta sight, baby.  More from Unwritten #33:

I have no alt text for this image.

The world changes when the story does. This is, of course, absolutely correct.

Part 3 – What’s in a name? No really, what?

In the previous piece I posted here, I talked about the comics series [amazon_link id="1592911366" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id="1607064790" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Red Wing[/amazon_link]. One thing I did there is I analyzed the names of some of the characters, figuring out if the writers had given those names some meaning, and maybe even what the meaning was.  Well, now I’m gonna do the very same thing here for [amazon_link id="1401228739" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Unwritten[/amazon_link]. I try not to repeat myself when I can, including my methodology, but this particular series demands that treatment, as the characters’ names fairly explode with hints at their symbolic functions.

The primary protagonist of [amazon_link id="1401230466" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Unwritten[/amazon_link] is Tom Taylor – named Tommy Taylor in his father’s fictional, tres Harry-Potteresque fantasy books, and Thomas Taylor on his birth certificate. The whole series’ opening arc centers on the question of whether Tom is truly Wilson Taylor’s son or some other person, or if he is actually the fictional Tommy brought to life, plus various and sundry other twists on the theme of his identity. Reporters on the scene should have just looked at the names! Tommy = “Tom me.” Thomas = “Tom is.”

Consider, too, his author father’s self-chosen pseudonym, Wilson Taylor. “Will son.” As it just so happens, his will IS imposed upon the world via his son. Ah, and the last name, Taylor? A tailor is a clothes-maker, one who creates that which others garb themselves; or, more typically, a tailor is thought of as one who alters people’s external decorations. It’s much better than “Potter,” as the utility of pottery is less than universal nowadays (although if we throw cannabis into the mix that broadens the meaning, I suppose). Okay, that’s the obvious “Taylor” meaning. Then there’s the BIG one:

“Tale-er.” A maker of tales.

Bear in mind that before he changed his name and began writing his tales, Wilson was one of the group that Ovetts up there belongs to, the group that manipulates reality with stories. His nom de plume is certainly no accident. He’s a creator whose will on Earth is carried out through his son. That storyline seems somehow familiar, and the reader is made quite aware that Wilson Taylor is a man with messianic ambitions (and an ego to match.) Oh, and his real name might be Will Tallis. “Will tell us.” Will he, then?

I don't even LIKE pot.
The word made flesh, stolen from the internet somewhere. My apologies to the original creator. Oh, uh, I put this here because I don’t want you to have to look at TOO many words without pictures. I’m like super-nice, aren’t I?

Most of the rest of the characters’ names don’t have quite the same significance, as far as I can tell. “Lizzie Hexam”? Dunno. “Hex ‘em,” obviously, but big deal. “Richie Savoy”? Uh… Savoy is a region in France between the state of Dauphiné and Lake Geneva; it’s also the name of a very long-lasting ruling dynasty of some sort. I have no idea what meaning, if any, to apply there. Sorry! What about the “Ovetts” guy above? Is it a reference to Michael Ovitz, the Hollywood super-agent? Do we read it backwards and conclude that it’s a salute to “Steve-O,” the recently deceased “Jackass” costar? Uh, probably not.

One can really go hog-wild with this name stuff. I actually started looking at the names of the creative personnel involved with The Unwritten. Writer Mike Carey? “My carry.” That makes sense, he’s the boss. Co-credit Peter Gross all you want, but in a series as literary as THIS one, the writer is inevitably going to be the auteur. Editor Karen Berger? She’s a caring Burgher. One needs a benevolent ruler on a project such as this, jawohl? Peter Gross’s name is problematic, though. I find it unlikely that his role in all of this is to be a disgusting dick. If we assume that “Peter = penis” is inescapable, we can still find a somewhat kinder interpretation. A gross is also a dozen dozens – twelve times twelve. That’s 144. 144 millimeters equals 5.67 inches, which is fairly average for the size of an erect penis. There’s no shame in that. Okay, yeah, I know I’m being silly, these people didn’t actually CHOOSE their names – and even if they did, they didn’t do so on the basis of that name’s relevance to the series The Unwritten. Hell, they’re not Frank Quitely or something. Some artists DO change their names on the basis of what would benefit their work. Consider David Kotkin becoming David Copperfield (A Charles Dickens character – just like Lizzie Hexam!) to lend his lame act a veneer of erudition and class, or Thomas Woodward doing the same with the Henry Fielding character Tom Jones. I gotta say, the motivation eludes me as to why Arnold George Dorsey appropriated the name of real-life composer Engelbert Humperdink (composer of the opera Hansel und Gretel.) Wow, I’ve really wandered off, haven’t I?

Back to [amazon_link id="1401232922" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Unwritten[/amazon_link]. There were only a couple more characters whose names struck me as particularly meaningful. One is Calliope Madigan, Tom’s reclusive putative mother. Calliope, in Greek mythology, was the Muse of epic poetry. That would make her the Muse of Homer and, hence, the inspiration for [amazon_link id="B0002Z0EYK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Iliad[/amazon_link] and what I think may be history’s first sequel, The Odyssey. She was also the mother of Orpheus, whose tale was of EXTREME relevance to Tom’s half-brother (by a different mother) Milton (the name of the author of Paradise Lost, not that that means anything, right?) A/K/A the Tinker. Calliope was also the mother of Linus, the inventor of melody and rhythm and thus the muse for The Association and The Pixies, and the patron saint of kids with security blankets. Moving on…

The other character whose name has a clear and deliberate deeper meaning is the story’s deadliest antagonist, Pullman. When first introduced, the narrative engages in a bit of misdirection to make it appear that Pullman is merely a hired thug of the villainous evil cabal in the story, albeit a very powerful henchman. The opening storylines guide our expectations in the direction of Count Ambrosio, the Voldemort-analogue from Wilson Taylor’s books, as the tale’s Big Bad. We’re led to believe that Pullman is but an aide, as the suitcase carriers of the Pullman porter company are. But, as we have gone along, we have increasingly found that Pullman is much more than the cabal’s hireling. In fact, his name is his role: “Pull man.” He guides humanity itself toward the darkness of his choosing.

Do you dig? From Unwritten #27.

In fact, the recent “.5” issues have hinted that Pullman is, like, Biblically old. He’s probably either Cain or the serpent from the Garden of Eden, or maybe both. He must have an awesome health plan or something.

Part 4 – A man without love.

The caption box reads, “1965.” The man sits, brooding. He wears a smoking jacket and absently pulls his fingers along the curves of a brandy snifter.

Arnie Dorsey has had another album of music released to indifference. The reviews have been dismissive, even ignorant – “A crooner,” they called him! With his range, his flair!

How to change his destiny? “Audiences in Las Vegas are an inane and ridiculous lot,” he says to himself, though speaking aloud. “How can I succeed at capturing their fickle attentions?”

At that moment, the rain begins to tinkle, tinkle, tinkle against the picture window of his study. Captured, he stares out at his immaculately kept selection of dozens of lawn gnomes as the rain washes the scum right off of the streets. He has his answer. He knows. He speaks aloud the words that will transform him into something beyond himself.

“I shall become a dink.”

 

This shit gets old fast.

Our Underwear 13: Beginnings, endings, circles. And dreams of murder.

by John Velousis

Warning: Pretty much everything in this article is a spoiler.

Part 1 – Captain Swing and many another thing

“Each time society, through unemployment, frustrates the small man in his normal functioning and normal self-respect, it trains him for that last stage in which he will willingly undertake any function, even that of hangman.” – Hannah Arendt

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island ([amazon_link id="1592911366" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]A 4-issue mini-series out this Wednesday in a collected trade![/amazon_link])
W: Warren Ellis, A: Raulo Caceres, Col: Digikore.   I’m not giving this one a rating.  I think I don’t like giving grades out.

The Swing Riots of 1830 began with the destruction of threshing machines in the southeast of England, by laborers whose livelihoods were displaced by them. If your job can be done by a machine, well, bosses don’t have to pay machines.

What has this to do with Warren Ellis’s just-concluded series Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island? Everything. The series as a whole, for me, was not a very exciting narrative, despite the appearance within of this guy:

I'm thinking that he's probably a poor lover.

BUT, as for its subtextual meaning and present relevance, the series gains in excitement with analysis. Ahhhh, not really. Actually, my analysis reads like I’m repurposing a college paper or something, it sucks THAT MUCH. But what the heck, you’re already here, give it a scan, okay? I’ll try to spice it up somehow.

The conflict at the heart of this story is that of the titular Captain and his collective fighting against an empowered cabal over the use of energy itself. Here, I’ll let Swing’s first mate Hobbes explain it for me:

Dumbfuck! Pay attention! The REAL subtext is that Warren Ellis is trying to advocate for corporal punishment in schools.

On Cindery Island, there’s a voluntary collective – a commune, if you will – where the “pirates” work to produce the devices whereby the Captain and his men produce their electrical wonders. Those there, essentially, are each given what they need and each produce according to their abilities. [YAWN, right? It gets better, eventually.] This comic is a piece of agitprop intended to tweak the minds of the workers of the world right now, at this delicate moment when it appears that the cabal of the ultra-wealthy and ultra-powerful have achieved final victory. The “Occupy” movements now growing are all pirates in Captain Swing’s crew; As the pool of persons who feel in control of their destiny dwindles, so does the group of those willing to act outside of the confines of polite society grow.

In my dark moments, I have pessimistic and prophetic fever dreams about the future of the U.S.A. Some of these are inspired by President Barack Obama and his seemingly idiotic insistence on continuing to try to cooperate with the Republicans in Congress. I am especially mortified at his failure to roll back Dubya’s tax cuts for the wealthy, at a time when we continue to become a desperate debtor nation. Obama, for me, has been the tipping point that’s convinced me that institutional change in America will not come about through political means. Rather, I am convinced that the middle class will continue to be squeezed, salaries frozen as the cost of living continues to rise. Layoffs continue too. More and more of us will be desperately clawing at one another’s flesh just to cling to the few scraps left in our hands, until finally and inevitably there is a breaking point and French Revolution II: Guillotine Hootenanny comes to the land. Change will be instituted after billionaires are dragged from their mansions by angry mobs and murdered in the streets, along with their heirs. I sincerely believe that it would take measures that drastic to convince our owners that, hey, we’re all in this together, so they should maybe go back to paying their share. Occupy Wall Street is a seed. That seed may yet grow into a tree watered in the blood of our oppressors. Or maybe not, it’s all just speculation. As a lifelong comic-book reader, I’m convinced that violence is not the answer. Yeah.

Getting back to the boring part, Warren Ellis does a few other things in this series which so far confound my analysis. Why does Captain Swing have the same name – John Reinhardt – as another Ellis creation, Doktor Sleepless? Uh, maybe he’s a Tulpa that the Doktor sent back in time? Works for me! Is the story’s protagonist, our POV character Charlie Gravel, an ancestor of “combat magician” William Gravel, another Ellis hero? Ya got me. Maybe Ellis is trying to build some kind of connected universe that helps move the back-catalogue. Why is the masthead of Swing’s ship an image of a winged snake springing from a woman’s head?

No woman's head appears in this image, sorry.

Winged snakes are often meant as symbolic of Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec patron god of learning and knowledge (he also invented the calendar, and taught the Aztecs how to grow corn!), so that’s half the idea parsed, I guess. Quetzalcoatl is also the “white god” whose predicted return was (purportedly) the linchpin upon which Moctezuma took an ass-pounding when Cortez came. I suspect that that further ironic meaning is not intended here, but I hate to let Quetzalcoatl factoids go to waste. My only tattoo is a bust of Quetzalcoatl, is why. Or, hell, maybe it’s supposed to be Glycon, just because everybody likes to needle Alan Moore.

Part 2 – Hickman and me and Huitzlopochtli makes three!

The Red Wing  ([amazon_link id="1607064790" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]A 4-issue mini-series available in, uh, 3 weeks. 2 days AFTER Christmas. What’s the use of THAT?[/amazon_link])

Jonathan Hickman: Writer, Nick Pitarra: Artist, Rachelle Rosenberg: Colors. Nobody lettered it, but yet there are letters within! Spooky!

I bet they had to go to the store over and over to keep getting white ink.

This series’ plot: Humanity is waging a war fought via time travel against a mysterious, also-time-traveling enemy intent on strip-mining the entire planet. Our two main characters, Valin Redd and Dominic Dorne, both lost their fathers to this very war, and we begin as they enter the same military branch that took their fathers: the titular Red Wing. The weapons here knock out your ship’s time shielding, and the resultant “chronal shear” causes cool-looking deaths like this:

This shit gets old fast.

Near the beginning of issue #1 of this series, it says: “TIME IS NOT LINEAR” and then “THERE IS NO PARADOX”. Near the end our protagonist, Dom, flies off into the past and/or the future with his military commander, a man who is Dom’s son, or maybe Dom’s father, or maybe both. That sounds like a paradox, right? The way I figure it, Hickman put that there just to try to keep Harlan Ellison from suing for story credit. (If you get that joke, say so in the comments. This is a contest! Whoever posts the explanation first, I will declare them to be King Shit of Fuck Island! This honor is more coveted than the Pulitzer Prize among people who don’t know what money is.) The two male leads are given ironic names. Valin (like a dyslexic villain?) is brave and heroic, while Dom is meek and uncertain.  The female lead is named “Maye,” a name loaded with possibility. The military head of command is named General Dadson Childefather. (Just kidding about that one. He’s actually unnamed in the story.) The color red is associated, as in Morrison’s run of Batman comics, with life – “Red shift or Blue shift, Dom,” says Maye, “… Life or Death.” Valin’s last name IS Redd. Dom’s last name, Dorne, has red in it, but it’s all mixed up. It’s also an anagram for “no red.” HEAVY.

In addition to the wordplay above, the series is positively loaded with circles. The military HQ of our heroes is “The Ring,” a space station in Earth orbit that literally encircles the entire planet, it seems. Planetside, the buildings have circles throughout their architecture. There are silos in the middle of the friggin’ military aircraft hangar of the Red Wing. There might not be a single page of this comic without a circle somewhere on it. Is time a straight line?

Um, blue is the color of death. Thanks loads, General Bummer!

Can you spot the hidden circles on this page? (I think the wall hanging is some sort of calendar. Wait, I just felt deja vu. Hm.)

War? They were the band with the songs "Low Rider," "The Cisco Kid," and "Spill the Wine." Don't tell me you haven't heard ANY of them...? Hey, that helmet looks a bit like a snake head.

And last but not least, the logo of the series is a snake eating its own tail – what we call an Ouroboros. Just like the bad-guy in Grant Morrison’s Batman run! Looky here:

Kinda looks like a dog's head, which makes total sense.

THIS particular Ouroboros (different cultures have different ones) looks to me to be Mayan or Aztec in style. That adds up, because Dom’s presumed-dead father, Robert Dorne, is actually the guy on the left in the picture above holding his finger up and teaching the native Mesoamerican about irrigation and war. Say, you know who the Mesoamerican Ouroboros is? Quetzalcoatl! Huh, that’s a coincidence. Two separate miniseries by different authors that ran and ended about the same time, each with a Quetzalcoatl connection, each reviewed by a guy with a picture of Quetzalcoatl tattooed on his back. Nutty. Well, I’m sure there’s nothing more to come on that subject… heh heh heh…

So, Robert Dorne is chilling with his buddy Itzamna up there, when suddenly, his beacon beeps! Awesome! So he checks it out…

Aw, dag! Blue shift equals death! ULTIMATE BUMMER!

… And gets captured by the mysterious enemy. The leader of the enemy? Dun dun DUN! His son, Dom! Now, we get to the meat of the series, with exchanges like this one:

By his knee is a circle. THAT circle is the important one, the one that reveals the secret of what this whole series is about. Come on, look harder! Aw, poo, my wife read this and says that I shouldn't lie just to eff with readers. Sorry. Again.

Science fiction is an ideal vehicle for allegory, because you can pile on names that are odd and are anagrams for other things and you can plop circles on top of circles and put the bad guys in crazy spiky space suits, and this stuff is all window dressing. It’s sleight-of-hand, where we’re looking in the hand with all of the circles in it but missing the hand with the moral. This story is about us. Humans, you and me, right now, are literally using up every resource in the world with only the most cursory gestures towards future generations. THAT is what this story is about. Hickman isn’t saying that the reader is Dom – the reader is Robertand he’s giving us a much-deserved sock in the chops!

Now, I shouldn’t dismiss the devices in the story so readily. The Moebius strip construction is of value as entertainment – hey, if you’re planting subtext, it has to be under text, right? Although, actually, the subtext is the Quetzalcoatl stuff – I’d call the central allegory the sub-subtext, but I might just be too concerned with labeling.

BY INVENTING THE SPIKY HELMET!

Except… except, when Dom zapped his dad into his blue ship from the Mayans, a legend was created around Robert. A legend that the Aztecs appropriated from the Mayans as they assimilated Mayan culture. The legend of the White God whose return was foretold until Hernan Cortez came and was taken to be Quetzalcoatl, and he wiped the hell out of the Aztecs and made himself a mega-excellent symbol of the conquest of the Americas, homeland of the most wasteful, consumerist society in the history of the Earth – CANADA! Just kidding, actually it’s THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA! So, really, Dom did some total self-fulfilling prophecy shit there. Nice going, numb-nuts!

All right, my cuckoo analysis has a few holes in it – Mexico and the USA are NOT, in fact, interchangeable for purposes of allegory. Also, the whole “Cortez is Quetzalcoatl” thing is a bunch of horseshit, originating at least 50 years after the Spaniards’ conquest of Central America. I didn’t know THAT when I got the frickin’ tattoo. Still, as Grant Morrison or Alan Moore might say, all stories are true, right? Jon Hickman, aided wonderfully by Nick Pitarra and Rachelle Rosenberg, has crafted a beautiful humdinger of a story here. Here’s hoping that THIS one grows in esteem as time goes by.

 

 

Oh, just plop down like you own the joint! GOD! From a story in DC Universe Legacies #8. Writer: Len Wein    Artist: Frank Quitely     Inks: Alejandro Sicat     Colors: Guy Major     Letters: Jared K. Fletcher

Some words about time and timing.

by John Velousis

Hello! Hopefully, you’ve seen and read our “Best-Of” column. If not, here’s a link. I’d like to point out that, in that article, all of our wonderful recommendations from this fantastic year in comics now have links so that you can buy the stuff we’re talking about – sometimes digitally, sometimes from Amazon, sometimes a bit of each. If you haven’t heard yet (from me) that I’m very close to shameless, well, now you have! Please enjoy your Black Friday shopping! Ach – BLACK FRIDAY! Black is the color of death. Black is also the color of a hole – an absence. You know what else is a hole? DEBT. The day’s name is THE closest that the collective United States of America comes to brutal self-awareness. Gotta give it props for THAT, anyway. Oh, but I do ramble on. Happy shopping, really.

You're preaching to the choir, buddy. Supergod #5. Writer: Warren Ellis, Illustrator: Garrie Gastonay, Inks: Rhoald Marcellius, Color: Digikore Studios

Perceptive readers will note that 2011 isn’t over yet. Hence, our list is NOT “The Best Comics of 2011″ – look at the long, odd title I gave the thing. Elsewhere, I have said that our site “stakes its claim as the Golden Globes of the [comic book reviewing] field” by announcing our awards-like stuff first. I’ve also called our timing “a deliberate, calculated Dick Move that I orchestrated just so we’d be first.” While there’s a germ of truth in each of these statements, I’m writing THIS present article to tell you that I’m mostly joking when I say those things.

Bulletproof Coffin #6 - Story & Words: David Hine, Story & Art: Shaky Kane

The Golden Globe Awards, if you don’t know, are movie awards whose televised ceremonies generally are the third-most watched awards shows every year. (The first two are at the link, okay?) This is kind of nuts, because they are decided upon by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which has (per that Wikipedia article!) 93 members at present. Their decisions upon winners are available for purchase, it seems, but at least they’ve abandoned their original practice of figuring out winners based upon whether the winner was willing to attend their televised award ceremony. The biggest reason for their ratings success, though, is that they both announce their nominations and then show the winners before the AMPAS does so with the Oscars.

Here at the Comics Vault, our decisions are not for sale – yet! – and we are infinitely more qualified than the HFPA to announce What Is Truth in our art criticism. Why? Because they are all paid for their opinions, as professional jounalists. We, on the other hand, perform our task pro bono. We do it for love!

The Return of Bruce Wayne #6. Writer: Grant Morrison, Penciler: Lee Garbett, Inker: Alejandro Sicat, Colorist: Guy Major, Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher

As for the timing, one may very well ask, “Why now?” Or perhaps, “Are you really saying that your period of review is gonna be from the third Wednesday of November through the second one in November the next year every year? Are you nuts? Is that your deal? You’re nuts?” Well, we arereally saying that, yes. And no I am not crazy, that’s not my deal, not really.

Oh, behave! Knight and Squire #2. Writer: Paul Cornell, Artist: Jimmy Broxton, Colorist: Guy Major

As for “Why now?” The reason is because, why NOT now? We are free, you know. ALL of us, all human beings, in SOME sense are truly free, insofar as where no rules exist, we may make our own. That is what we here at The Comics Vault have done. We reject the idea that we must obey the arbitrarily chosen first day of the Julian and Gregorian Calendars. We are no more bound to start and end at that date than we are to spend it observing The Feast of the Circumcision. We are art critics! Capital-A Art is fearless; it doesn’t bolster rules, it bends rules to its whim. We would be UNFIT to render judgment upon the pieces of this medium were we to aspire to any less.

Oh, just plop down like you own the joint! GOD! From a story in DC Universe Legacies #8. Writer: Len Wein, Artist: Frank Quitely, Colorist: Peter Doherty, Letterer: Rob Leigh

Now, to be frank, none of the writers here knew in MAY of this year – let alone November of 2010 – that we would be blogging about comics right now. So, yeah, there’s a good likelihood that we missed some awesome thing that shipped in December of 2010 – in fact, this whole article is illustrated with some of my favorite stuff from the last two months of 2010. Well, next year, we’ll do better. And if we want to, we will reject the sun itself and start observing 26-hour days. Because we are free, and that, my friend, is how we roll. Thank you for visiting us here, and as Tony Stark would say, keep coming back!

A page-and-change from Infinite Vacation #1 - credits unknown.

THE BEST COMICS OF 2011, BUT REALLY FROM NOVEMBER 2010 TO EARLY NOVEMBER 2011!

(WARNING: There are all kinds of swears in here, up, down, and sideways. In today’s America, a typical 10-year-old has heard the “F” word about a thousand jillion times. BUT! If you object to such stuff, YOU WON’T LIKE IT HERE! Perhaps you would enjoy BleedingCool.Com better? SCRAM, WUSS!)

ASM #655 - Best comic of the year (SPOILER!)
Some of the authors thought this issue was good, and that Marcos Martin might be a good artist.

The mighty Comics Vault bullpen of hotheads, sociopaths, schizos, holograms, and women from France got together to throw down about the past 13-ish months’ worth of excellence in the field of comic book art. We were on the scene to record that momentous conversation, and will again be on the scene in five weeks to testify at the ensuing litigation! Let’s jump in at the beginning, SHALL WE?

Here are the categories that the Comic Vault staff judged:
Best letterer
Best colorer
Best one-shot
Best floppy re-issue (Walking Dead Weekly, DC Presents, etc)
Best canceled series
Best series that we’re not sure if it’s canceled or what
Best Limited Series
Best Original Graphic Novel
Best ongoing series that doesn’t come out real often (RASL, Infinite Vacation – basically, any Indie, pretty much.)
Best single page
Best sequence of panels
Best-written single issue
Best-drawn single issue
Best anthology series
Best story arc
Best publishing company
Best writer/artist
Best writer
Best artist
Best overall single issue
Best series
Best comic thing of the year of any sort

With out further ado, let the fairy tale, award show, train wreck begin……

(JOHN paces nervously in Comics Vault Tower, a one-story brownstone mounted high up near the heart of downtown Chicago, on top of the biggest antenna on Sears Tower. It looks like some kinda crazy cubic stone Dennis Miller sitting on top of John Holmes’s skyscraper building antenna from that one time that he co-owned a skyscraper with, oh, let’s say Jean-Paul Sartre.)

JOHN VELOUSIS: (To himself, like a crazy person) Come ON. Being on time means being ten minutes early or something. They’re probably together. Talking about me. Plotting against me. Calling me a “crazy person” in a pejorative way. I hate them so much! Why don’t they like me more?

ROGER RIDDELL III: Where is everybody?

JV: I’m right, here, Riddell.

RR: Where is everybody?

JV: I really do NOT want to start this, dude.

RR: Guys, I’m here!

JV: Roger, come on, we’ve had our dif-

RR: I’M RIGHT HERE! HELLOOOOOOO!

(JV sits and seethes. He and Roger pointedly don’t make eye contact. The 7:30 start-time comes and passes without any word from anyone else. 7:40 does this as well. Roger begins loudly playing that knife thing Lance Henriksen does in [amazon_link id="B00012FXAE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Aliens[/amazon_link]. At 7:45, John abruptly grabs the CB Radio microphone and yells into the speak-into-here part of it)

JV: This is just like Sunday all over again, fuck you all I hate you roundtable is canceled I hate you!

(NICK SANDILANDS enters through the hatch in the floor, carrying a box the size and shape of the one that had Gwyneth’s head in it in [amazon_link id="B00464AVXW" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Seven[/amazon_link].)

NICK: Hey guys, I made food! Oh. Are you two, uhhhhh… I made food.

RR: Where is everybody?

JV: I will stab y-

(MIKE DEVIVO crashes through the window, swinging on a rope from something somehow.)

MIKE: YEAHHHHHHH!!!!!

JV: Why would you do that!? AGAIN!? The fricking oxygiiihhhggsha

(72 HOURS LATER)

RR: [amazon_link id="B0024FAR5M" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Sons of Anarchy[/amazon_link] is fantastic. (JV Glares. Mike uses a pencil to itch under some of his bandage wrappings. Nick looks nervous.)

RR: As opposed to the snoozefest that the [amazon_link id="B0049P1VHS" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Walking Dead[/amazon_link] has been.

JV: Never actually seen Sons of Anarchy, got S1 D1 in my Netflix kway-way.

RR: It’s addictive, Johnny.

JV: So’s meth. (long pause) I hear.

RR: First season starts out a little slow just because there’s a lot of exposition in the first couple of episodes, but it stays pretty consistently paced once it gets going.

MEGHAN WHITE: I’m here!

NICK: (Jumping) AAIEAHH!!!

MEG: Most of this stuff I just don’t really feel that strongly about, sooooo yeah.

(MATT SARDO taps on the window from the outside. He’s standing on the ledge.)

MATT: (Faintly, though he’s shouting.) I’m going to stay out here so Mike can’t destroy my oxygen again.

NICK: … Wh… ?

MEG: I flew here from France.

(John and Roger stare at each other in confusion. Roger mouths the words “Kill you.”)

MIKE: I’ll turn Ryan on! (He flips a switch on the Ryan device. A hologram of RYAN W DUELFER appears.)

RYAN: I’m making La-SAG-na! Oh wow, Meg’s here!

MATT: You have to start now! I’m your boss!

JV: BEST LETTERER!

(Long pause)

JV: I have no nominee.

RR: I DO.

MIKE: Neither do I. Come with it, Rog.

RR: ME!

JV: (Doing his totally sweet Asgard voice.) ROGER I COMMAND THEE TO SPEAKETH.

RR: I rewrite all the dialogue in my books. That’s why they all have great reviews.

NICK: If you notice the lettering you are a better man than I.

MATT: If I don’t notice your letters you’re doing a great job.

JV: Nobody has a letterer? Fuck em.

NICK: Aheh, I was wondering why Jason Aaron, Rick Remender, Fraction, and Slott all sounded the same!

RR: JOE CARAMAGNA IS BEST LETTERER

JV: Roger wins. FOR LATEST ANSWER.

RR: At least I had an answer.

JV: Okay, I’ll say Chris Eliopolous, just because Joe Caramagna is in the Vietcong. BEAT YA TWICE OVER!

RR: (Under his breath) I’ll beat you twice. Period.

Oh, big deal, so Dave Stewart used a lot of reds.

JV: BEST COLORER!

(Nobody says anything.)

JV: COLORER, BEST!

JV: Dave Stewart. His work in [amazon_link id="1595828273" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Hellboy: The Fury[/amazon_link] took my breath away. And I hate my breath.

RR: Edgar Delgado.

MIKE: Gabe Eltaeb and Randy Mayor Green Lantern. Anybody who has to put that many different colors in a book and not have it look cluttered wins.

NICK: Colorer, meh. I couldn’t even name one

RR: ME – SECOND GRADE

JV: You don’t have to yell, we’re all right here in the same room. Except for Matt. And Ryan, kind of.

RYAN: Bettie Breitweiser, from [amazon_link id="0785151230" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Captain America and Bucky[/amazon_link]. (Ryan then makes this “grrrrrr” rolling-tongue sound that the others pretend not to hear.)

The Duncan Fegredo Art doesn't totally suck either.

NICK: Can we be real for a second, does anyone really think anybody cares about Colorer, Letterer, Inker, etc?

JV: I cannot be real for a second. You completely miss the point of this exercise, and I don’t like your coat.

NICK: Shmobviously.

JV: BEST ONE-SHOT! GO!

NICK: Okay, okay, “pretend-real” then.

RYAN: [amazon_link id="B0060GAOA4" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear itself 7.1[/amazon_link]. Does that… count as a one-shot?

JV: Sure, why not? Do what thou wilt, that shall be the whole of the law.

NICK: OH! [amazon_link id="B004TTHCOK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week[/amazon_link]!

JV: AGREED!

NICK: Nick Spencer! I love that guy!

JV: Funny, Nick, when we were in the ICU talking about this earlier, I was amazed that you and me agreed EXACTLY on best one-shot.

Co-Superman! Jimmy Olsen 1-shot, by Spencer, Silva, & Dym.

NICK: Too bad he’s Marvel Exclusive now….

JV: Really? That’s kinda terrible, Spencer’s worst work has been for Marvel.

NICK: Yeah, [amazon_link id="0785140158" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ultimate X-men[/amazon_link]? Sucks. [amazon_link id="0785147497" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Iron Man 2.0[/amazon_link]? 2.suck!

JV: Wait, no way is Spencer Marvel exclusive, ’cause he’s still doing Morning Glories. And Infinite Vacation, though the next issue probably won’t come out until his contract expires.

NICK: Creator owned!

JV: Mmmmmm. OH, also my Jimmy Olsen vote – uh, are these votes? – is tied with the [amazon_link id="B0048GXMIE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Hellboy/Beasts of Burden[/amazon_link] one-shot, which was quite awesome too.

RR: Oh shit…Did I read any one-shots this year? I know I did, but I don’t remember them.

MIKE: I did – Cyclops, and it was god-awful. It kept me away from every other one-shot after it that came out.

NICK: Who wrote Cyclops?

MIKE: I don’t even remember.

RR: I’ll have to check my boxes really quick.

JV: Nice homework-doing, Rog. THAT WAS A SARCASM.

RR: [amazon_link id="B005GXVQRW" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]SPIDER-MAN: DEADLY FOES[/amazon_link]

JV: You made that up.

NICK: Yeah, I call shenanigans.

RR: Spider-Man: Deadly Foes #1

NICK: Or more specifically, Google-anigans.

RR: Where Robbie Robertson’s kid beat up the Hobgoblin.

NICK: Bing-anigans

RR: And Norah Winters looked even dumber.

NICK: Ask Jeeves-anigans

RR: JEEVES IS DEAD

JV: Well, that’s what Nietzsche says.

NICK: Speaking of Jeeves, does anyone else think Alfred is a Hologram in the New 52?

RYAN: Are you being catty at me?

NICK: Or- no, I… or a robot? Alfred?

MIKE: Nope. (He pulls out a Bat-a-rang-looking thing and readies to toss it, probably at somebody’s face, but John wrestles him to the ground.)

NICK: Or Ultron?

RR: Alfred is Marvel Movieverse Jarvis. Bruce Wayne stole him while traveling through time.

NICK: Bwah!

RR: On the same trip where he bedded Mary Jane on the night of the Spider Wedding.

JV: BEST FLOPPY RE-ISSUE

MIKE: I liked DC’s reissues of classic 90′s and 80′s stories

JV: I yam caught between [amazon_link id="0785148639" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Casanova: Gula[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id="B0055J9STK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Batman: Irresistible[/amazon_link].

NICK: Oooh I forgot about those Mike! Screw Walking Dead Weekly, I change my answer!

JV: Any of you read the latter? It got no love at all anywhere, super-awesome Tony Harris art with a Tom Peyer script that somehow makes Batman hilarious while still being an utter badass.

Batman: Irresistible - letters by Kurt Hathaway, colors by JD Mettler.

MATT: Who buys re-issues?

JV: People who skipped a decade when good work was being published. And who like standing INSIDE buildings. Aren’t you cold?

MEG: [amazon_link id="1607060760" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Walking Dead Weekly[/amazon_link], I guess. In France, the tables have machines that hold comics and turn the pages for you.

RR: Does the trade of [amazon_link id="1592911315" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Neonomicon[/amazon_link] count as a reissue?

JV: NO.

MIKE: That is a firm response to that.

JV: That’s why I put the word “Floppy” in the category title.

RR: It’s been like a year since that series ended, so it can’t be best graphic novel. Although, it was pretty good, what with all the Chthulu rape scenes and whatnot.

JV: There is NO category for best Graphic Novel Re-issue of Stuff Previously Collected In Periodical Form. Deal with it!

RR: I don’t read any other reissues. I only buy first prints of back issues, or I’ll pick up trades if that’s too expensive.

JV: Then poo on your own hand like that guy did in the “[amazon_link id="B00000FBH2" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]OZ[/amazon_link]” TV show.

RR: NO.

JV: (After pondering) Okay, I’ll respect your wish re: poo. Mike, do you have any specific DC Presents thing?

MIKE: I enjoyed the hell out of [amazon_link id="B000WOVVC0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Superman: Secret Identity[/amazon_link].

NICK: Onward!

JV: BEST CANCELED SERIES

MIKE:[amazon_link id="B0058M6ANG" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ] Nova[/amazon_link]!

RR: [amazon_link id="B005VSF1Y6" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Uncanny X-Me[/amazon_link]… Oh wait.

MEG: Secret Six.

NICK: Red Robin.

JV: Xombi. Xombi was good.

MIKE: I really enjoyed Red Robin. I liked what they did with Tim.

NICK: Tim was really headed down the paranoid insane Batman path.

MIKE: Which I enjoyed.

NICK: The Ra’s al Ghul plot was great.

MIKE: I liked that they were setting up Ras as his ultimate villain. No one is showing my pick Nova any love, huh?

JV: WE HATE NOVA HE IS STINKY AND LOOKS LIKE [a] FART [would look if one could see farts].

RR: o.O

MATT: I miss Nova. And [amazon_link id="0785138196" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Immortal Iron Fist[/amazon_link] [which was canceled mid-2009] and [amazon_link id="0785133380" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Guardians of the Galaxy[/amazon_link] [which ended in mid-2010, but I figured I'd bring them up just to be a pain in the balls for whoever is transcribing this shit]!

NICK: Never got a chance to check out Nova. Heard he is going to be involved [in some comics story-line in some way] in 2012 though. Unless I made that up.

RR: I never got a chance to check out Nova, either. Didn’t they kill him in [amazon_link id="0785146008" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Secret Avengers[/amazon_link]?

NICK: Yeah he dead…

JV: No, he just kinda left Secret Avengers. Like Brubaker did. And every single plot that Brubaker had planned.

RR: He was a member until they went to Mars and he put [the knock-off Serpent Crown] on.

MIKE: Yep.

JV: He didn’t die in Secret Avengers, I mean

MIKE: He IS dead at this point.

JV: Right, okay.

MIKE: Or at least trapped in the cosmic cube with Thanos and Starlord.

NICK: D-E-D. Dead.

MIKE: Which I’ll talk more about later.

NICK: Thanos or Darkseid?

MIKE: Thanos.

JV: BEST SERIES THAT MIGHT MAYBE BE CANCELED

RR: Maybe cancelled series… What Ever Happened to Baron Von Shock?

JV: Roger, it’s not best CHANCRED series! WOOF!

RR: I was enjoying that book. I had to put no thought into it at all. And then it stopped mid-storyline and Image claims it’s just delayed. For the past year.

JV: The Baron Von Shock thing is real? Was he the guy from [amazon_link id="0785125167" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Avengers: The Initiative[/amazon_link]?

RR: No. Baron Von Shock was an Image book written by Rob Zombie. It was weird and campy and terrible, but I enjoyed it because of that.

MATT: Did [amazon_link id="B005HKL89K" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk[/amazon_link] finish?

JV: My answer is T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. I think. [Editorial note, 2 days later, John saw in an ad in some DC publication that the annoying-to-type T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents was going to be wrapped up as a six-issue mini-series.] Batman, Incorporated WOULD be my answer, but [some DC insider that John thinks he's BFFs with or something] says it ain’t canceled. BUT [the guy I know] may be fooling himself. I think DC is gonna totally fuck Grant Morrison and [B.I.'s talented but obscure artist] [amazon_link id="1607064774" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Chris Burnham[/amazon_link]. In the bad way.

NICK: (Massively sarcastic) Even with the sweet new Jim Lee Darkseid redesign? Supposedly Batman, Incorporated is going to be renamed as Batman Leviathan and finished early 2012.

JV: NO WAY will it be finished early 2012. As of about a month ago, DC didn’t even have any scripts.

RR: But if that happens, Burnham can just write Captain America, Incorporated.

NICK: He has Body Armor!!!!

JV: PWAFFF

NICK: Captain America, Inc. Shh, you’re gonna give Marvel ideas!

RR: It’s not like they didn’t have a bunch of dudes trying to get that shield.

NICK: Will Captain America have Body Armor when Jim Lee redesigns him…

JV: Is your guys’ oxygen seeming a bit thin?

NICK: Just you!

JV: BEST LIMITED SERIES

RR: Cap already has body armor.

NICK: Rhetorical! Hence the ellipse…

JV: Best limited series NOW, jack-holes!

NICK: Hah!

RR: [amazon_link id="0785156682" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]SCHISM[/amazon_link]

JV: MORE LIKE JIZM AMIRITE? [No. - Ed.]

RYAN: [amazon_link id="B005H0FO1I" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]X-Men: Schism[/amazon_link]. Me too!

MATT: Third vote here for [amazon_link id="B005BTA500" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]X-Men Schism[/amazon_link], that or [amazon_link id="0785151958" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ultimate Captain America[/amazon_link].

MIKE: [amazon_link id="0785149023" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Thanos Imperative[/amazon_link]. That book was written and drawn in Amazing Sauce.

NICK: Knight of Vengeance! The only good Flashpoint series. Azzarello and Risso! Martha Wayne as the Joker! Whaaaaaa!!!!!

RR: Schism or [amazon_link id="0785158049" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear Itself: Spider-Man[/amazon_link]. That was the only Fear Itself book that I enjoyed.

JV: [amazon_link id="0785151559" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Incognito: Bad Influences[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id="B005PHU0TE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]BPRD: Monsters[/amazon_link] or [amazon_link id="1595828257" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth[/amazon_link]. I like things with colons.

NICK: Didn’t read any of those, haven’t ever been a big X fan, but you know I am interested in reading even more so now that you guys like it so much.

JV: (In a way hot-assed Scottish accent) I dinnae read any of your answers either.

NICK: Oh, my bad then, SPOILER ALERT!

MEG: Who Is Jake Ellis?

RR: [amazon_link id="1592911099" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Crossed 3D[/amazon_link] was an interesting one-shot. I like turtles.

JV: Actually, now that [Martha Joker]‘s been mentioned, I DID read issue 1 of [Knight of Vengeance], but not the rest. We all like turtles, I think it goes without saying.

RR: And I take back what I said about Fear Itself: Spider-Man being the only Fear Itself book I enjoyed. [amazon_link id="0785158073" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear Itself: Deadpool [/amazon_link]was fun.

JV: Fear Itself: Deadpool TOTALLY rocked! Give it! (He and Roger high-five, then Roger uses the other hand to sucker-punch JV in the jaw.] AOOUW YOU COCK!

NICK: I didn’t read any of the Fear Itself tie-ins besides .1 and .2.

JV: BEST ORIGINAL GRAPHIC BONG AND / OR NOVEL

(Mike looks dead.)

JV: Is Mike dead? FUCK!

RR: The GN I’ve been thinking about writing is the best one.

MIKE: (Lying) Nope.

RR: HE’S GOT MACARONI COMA. (Earlier, Mike had eaten a LOT of macaroni and cheese. Like, a bowl the size of the box that Gwyneth Paltrow’s head was in at the end of [amazon_link id="B001BPQT8A" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Seven[/amazon_link]. Which is really too much mac & cheese to eat in one sitting.)

NICK: Mac and Cheese coma shmobvs.

JV: DAMMIT!

NICK: Ahhhh!!!

MIKE: This is true.

RR: MACOMARONI.

NICK: Great minds Roger! (Roger punches Nick in the ear.) YACCH! WHAT THE FUCK!

MIKE: Shameless plug for [amazon_link id="B0032Z4MJK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Velveeta shells and cheese[/amazon_link]. (Stares at feet.) I made three boxes.

JV: I wanted to cook & eat your dead tattoo, Mike. (Long Pause) Is that weird?

NICK: Graphic Novel, if I don’t get laughed off the panel for it being too girly, [amazon_link id="1401232914" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]New York Five[/amazon_link].

RYAN: My god, you are such a pussy.

JV: BEST ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL!!!!!!!

MIKE: I had a tough time with this one

RR: Does [amazon_link id="1592911242" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Crossed 3D[/amazon_link] count?

JV: How would we know?

RR: It was a graphic novel.

MEG: Does [amazon_link id="1934964379" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Stumptown[/amazon_link] count?

JV: NO! Listen, BEST. ORIGINAL. Right there, if it’s a collected series that was previously A SERIES, THEN IT’S NOT ORIGINAL!

MEG: Uh-HUH. (Steadily gives JV the stink-eye.)

MIKE: I want to just say Hickman’s [amazon_link id="0785144226" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]S.H.I.E.L.D.[/amazon_link] because it reads much better that way.

JV: (Shouting… really starting to lose it.)  I WANT PEOPLE TO OBSERVE PARAMETERS BUT I GUESS NOBODY [is] GONNA GET [the precise] THING [they're seeking in this instance, you lousy] FUCKERS!

(Mike and Nick are laughing hard enough that their sides are clearly hurting. Matt has put his ear to the window to hear the rest better. It seems stuck.)

(2 HOURS LATER)

JV: [amazon_link id="1934964441" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Petrograd[/amazon_link] is my answer. (He’s holding a blood-soaked t-shirt to his neck.)

RR: I really enjoyed Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.

JV: That wasn’t original, it was stolen from the Samuel Beckett play of the same name.

RR: I couldn’t believe DC released a cheap cash-in graphic novel adaptation of [amazon_link id="1401219268" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Watchmen[/amazon_link].

JV: BEST ONGOING SERIES THAT DOESN”T COME OUT REAL OFTEN! (BASICALLY MOST ANY INDIE BOOK)

MEG: [amazon_link id="0785152512" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Scarlet[/amazon_link].

MATT: Stuff of Legend is my favorite indie book! (He’s still in the same spot he was 2 hours ago, his ear is DEFINITELY stuck to the window.)

MIKE: Infinite Vacation!!!

A page-and-change from Infinite Vacation #1 - credits unknown. Uh, this issue came out last year. WTF?

JV: [amazon_link id="1582405816" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]GODLAND[/amazon_link] ALL THA WAYYYYYY. Ah shit, it’s bleeding again.

NICK: Scarlet by Bendis and Maleev, with Infinite Vacation a close, close, close second.

MIKE: Nick Spencer is on all kinds of crazy for [Infinite Vacation].

RR: [amazon_link id="0785151036" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Amazing Spider-Man[/amazon_link], because it only comes out twice a month and that is not enough.

NICK: The art in that is crazy as well Mike.

MIKE: I agree, it’s pretty amazing.

JV: I really do enjoy Infinite Vacation, gotta say, but Godland is off-the-hook awesome.

MIKE: Water colors be damned.

JV: Is THAT how colors grow? (Long pause) You water them? (Long pause) Water colors? (Long pause) Hello?

MIKE: [amazon_link id="B001QIGZX6" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Cape[/amazon_link] should get a mention as well. It has nothing to do with that cancelled NBC show.

NICK: Which was the worst thing ever, how did I watch 10 episodes of that?

MIKE: Has anyone checked out Cape? The comic has nothing to do with the [amazon_link id="B004XM38CS" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]show[/amazon_link].

JV: Nossir. Uh, I wanna mention [amazon_link id="B005OHT7DK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Powers[/amazon_link] also. And RASL.

NICK: Powers… also soon to be a crappy TV show… Negative, but I love Joe Hill.

JV: I love Joe Mama. I really hope POWERS isn’t horrible.

NICK: Locke & Key has been a pretty great read. Sad that it’s going to be wrapped up soon.

JV: THAT series does intrigue me, gotta check it out.

NICK: I definitely highly recommend Locke & Key.

JV: None of us reads ANYTHING. We’re gonna look like complete assholes.

RR: Powers is going to be on FX, right?

NICK: Yeah, Powers on FX. What makes us great is that we all read different things! So when we come together we are like Voltron! (John is confused, he never read the thing with Voltron in it.)

JV: I get the impression more that when we come together we’re like bukkake.

JV: BEST SINGLE PAGE OR SPLASH PAGE OR 2-PAGE SPLASH, I’M FEELING LIBERAL NOW

RR: I used to think any original series FX aired would be fantastic, and then they aired that [amazon_link id="B0065FFMR0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]American Horror Story[/amazon_link] shit.

NICK: Hmmm, I like American Horror Story.

RR: It’s so awful. Ha! Ha! Ha!

MIKE: Back on topic, gents.

JV: BEST THING WE ARE LIKE WHEN WE COME TOGETHER

RR: [amazon_link id="1572243406" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]BEST SINGLE ISSUE[/amazon_link] Amazing Spider-Man 655.

JV: That’s later, hater.

NICK: Splash page of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Amazing Spider-Man 655.

An okay image from Amazing Spider-Man 655.

JV: Yeah, good choice.

MIKE: Animal Man #2 Into the Red – ’nuff said!

Art? Travel Foreman. Color? Lovern Kindzierski. Coupla made-up-sounding names, right? These comic-book people!

NICK: Yeah that’s pretty great too, Mike.

RYAN: In [amazon_link id="B005NKZV0G" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]X-Men: Schism #4[/amazon_link], Cyclops blasts the oncoming sentinel from Utopia.

MATT: Walking dead #83, Carl gets shot in the face.

JV: Uhhhhhhh fuck! I… UHHH…

NICK: Matt’s nomination of Carl’s hole in his head was probably my favorite moment of The Walking Dead ever. To be honest, I had been pretty bored and contemplating dropping Walking Dead until that point.

RR: ASM 655 had the best splash page.

MIKE: Yeah that was brutal.

RR: With the cathedral. What’s the Walking Dead book like compared to the show?

MIKE: Different, which is a good thing.

RR: The show is pretty boring, and I’ve held off on getting into the book because of that.

MIKE: It keeps it interesting.

NICK: Definitely.

JV: I shall go with the Uncle Ben page [from ASM 655], but only the version with the captions removed. Or the cathedral. Or the Escher thing from [amazon_link id="B005XZEBP2" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Secret Avengers 18[/amazon_link].

MIKE: I think people are giving the show too much flack.

JV: Rog, the Walking Dead book is 10,000,000% better. In every way that the show is cliched and predictable, the book is clever and inventive and original. They’re like opposites.

MIKE: Yep.

NICK: I haven’t watched the last two episodes, but the first two of this season were meh.

RR: They are terrible at doing flashbacks on the show.

MIKE: I have all the collected trades thus far.

JV: BEST SEQUENCE OF PANELS

NICK: [amazon_link id="B005YDT17Q" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Secret Avengers 18[/amazon_link] was awesome. Aja!

RR: Sequence? The Shang-Chi fight from Secret Avengers 18.

NICK: Shang Chi!

David Aja with Raul Allen. Warren Ellis wrote it. I'll be your thug any time, Commander!

JV: That two-page six-panel fight thing was a total salute to Winsor McKay, but with bone-crunching violence added.  But, like, the figure posing and the line-work was straight out of [amazon_link id="1449576974" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Little Nemo in Slumberland[/amazon_link].

RYAN: From[amazon_link id="0785156623" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ] Fear Itself #7[/amazon_link], Steve Rogers – Captain America – receives Mjolnir!

MATT: Walking Dead #83 again, when Rick hacks off his girlfriend’s hand to save him and Carl.

NICK: The death of Johnny Storm.

MATT: Yeah, the [amazon_link id="0785151435" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fantastic Four[/amazon_link] where the Human Torch dies is pretty good.

JV: I am going to go with the series of splash pages beginning Fables [amazon_link id="B0056H0CTQ" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]#106[/amazon_link], first 9 pages. Amazing shit, as momentous and enormous as the dire threat that itself was jarringly and amazingly squelched by the sacrifice of Bigby’s father. Man, amazing issue.

EXACTLY. Mark Buckingham pencils, Steve Leialoha inks, Lee Loughridge colors, Todd Klein letters, Bill Willingham writes.

MIKE: Honestly best sequence for me was Green Lantern #67. Sinestro protecting Hal and then getting a GL ring out of nowhere was pretty cool.

NICK: GL 67 was pretty great, very unexpected.

MIKE: Yes. It was definitely a fitting end to that arc.

NICK: Excited to see how this resolves itself. I don’t buy the ending to GL#3.

MIKE: Me neither.

JV: BEST SURPRISE ENDING OR TWIST, I HAVE NO ANSWER BTW

RYAN: The ending of [amazon_link id="B0064GH5KW" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Magneto: Not A Hero #1[/amazon_link] – The return of Joseph =]!!

JV: Yeah, uh, I read that and have no idea, who the eff is Joseph? I missed that era of super-history. Also, what the hell did you just do with your head?

RYAN: Joseph was a clone of Magneto created in the mid-90′s. Everyone believed him to be Magneto, amnesic from the fall of Avalon and Xavier wiping his mind clean. He sacrificed himself during “the [amazon_link id="B002Q6ULKK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Magneto War[/amazon_link]” years later. And I smiled broadly, sideways.

MIKE: Batman #1 with Joker getting his face ripped off and nailed to the wall was a “Holyshit!” moment if I ever saw one.

NICK: Joker face-off is pretty good.

FAVORITE CHARACTER

RR: Spider-Man. Although, I feel more like a Wolverine guy these days.

NICK: Batman.

JV: Character. Huh. I dunno. I’m gonna go with the tilde. No, wait, I’m going to go with a dark horse here – Finesse from Avengers Academy. Her actions and words rock nearly every issue, from her Sherlock Holmes act in the “point one” issue to her heroism in the Fear Itself storyline conclusion. Also, her haircut is really the right one for her head, I think.

(Nobody says anything for a really long time.)

RYAN: James Buchanan Barnes.

(Nobody says anything for a REALLY long time.)

JV: BEST-WRITTEN SINGLE ISSUE

MIKE: Nick Spencer’s creation of the first issue of [amazon_link id="B004IAF1A2" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Infinite Vacation[/amazon_link]. Seriously huge ideas happening in that book.

MATT: A tie – The Walking Dead #83 and 84.

JV: Is that the only comic you read last year? (JV’s deliberately standing out of Matt’s view because he knows Matt can’t move his head.)

NICK: Best Single Issue [amazon_link id="B0054YSXRY" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Amazing Spider-Man #655[/amazon_link].

RR: ASM 655.
JV: You’re all not wrong here. But I say it’s issue [amazon_link id="B005BSX0RQ" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]#2 of Hellboy: The Fury[/amazon_link]. It’s unusual for the MIDDLE issue of a miniseries to be the best one, but THAT one was a game-changer. Mike Mignola pulled out all the stops, with callbacks a-plenty, amazing and dramatic mood changes, and a stunning narrative device that worked to perfection: Hellboy is fighting the Dragon, who is telling Hellboy of its invincibility – the Dragon’s INEVITABILITY.

JV: Suddenly, the word balloons become caption boxes, and the result blows away these words’ poor power to add to or detract from its impact.

(Everybody pretty much ignores JV and talks while he’s rambling – muttering, really.)

NICK: But haven’t you seen [amazon_link id="B00005V1WW" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The One[/amazon_link], Mike? Not the One Mike, but The One, Mike. Similar idea…

MIKE: The terrible Jet Li film?

NICK: Turrible, turrible.

JV: BEST-DRAWN SINGLE ISSUE

RR: Amazing Spider-Man #655

JV: Tie between ASM 655 & Secret Avengers 18

NICK: Secret Avengers 18! Or ASM 655! BASTARDS! At least we all know great art.

MATT: I love the art in Justice League #1, hate the story.

MIKE: Green Lantern #67.

JV: Mike luvs [amazon_link id="B005LJITS0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Green Lantern[/amazon_link]. Hey Mike, marry Green Lantern.

MIKE: Seriously, Mahnke delivered in that book.

JV: More like WANKY!

MIKE: It felt huge in scope. I enjoy a well-drawn book. Which GL #67 is.

JV: Seriously, if we go to C3P2D2, let’s start a fist fight.

RR: If CBR decides to pay me to cover C2E2 again, I might be torn

JV: New asshole for you will be torn by me in fist fight.

JV: BEST ANTHOLOGY SERIES

JV: [amazon_link id="B005NJ0K2G" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Dark Horse Presents[/amazon_link]. Very welcome in its return to the world.

MIKE: I don’t have a horse in the anthology race.

NICK: I’m with Mike, no answers.

JV: Okay, fuck dat. I just, uh, wanted to give DHP some love without actually, y’know, reviewing it.

RR: If we go to C2E2, I call dibs on cosplaying as Kraven.

RR: NOBODY cosplays as Kraven.

JV: MOST PROMISING NEW SERIES (“NEW 52″ DIVISION)

MIKE: Animal Man. Really, a tie between that and Swamp Thing. Just because they are both contributing to a larger story.

JV: Is there a list of these somewhere?

NICK: Here’s a link. (Hands JV a sausage link.) I’ll also say Animal Man.

RR: I don’t read DC except for Batman graphic novels. I have too much on my pull list to add the Batman books.

JV: OMAC or Wonder Woman.

MOST PROMISING NOT-PART-OF-THE-NEW 52 SERIES

RR: [amazon_link id="0785156798" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Wolverine and the X-Men[/amazon_link].

RYAN: [amazon_link id="0785119205" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Winter Soldier[/amazon_link]!

MIKE: Umm… [amazon_link id="078515261X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Journey Into Mystery[/amazon_link].

JV: YEAH I CHOOSE MIKE’S ANSWER! Although, honestly, at this point it’s beyond “promising.” OOOH! SPACEMAN!

MIKE: I agree

Stephanie Hans gets her Klimt on!

NICK: [amazon_link id="B005QMNAZE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Moon Knight[/amazon_link]

RR: Jason Aaron brought back Doop! DOOP!

MIKE: Aaron’s writing the hell out of that book.

JV: BEST STORY ARC

RR: [amazon_link id="0785151044" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]SPIDER-ISLAND[/amazon_link]!

MIKE: Detective Comics – Scott Snyder’s entire run. Not even kidding. #871 to 881.

JV: Cornell’s Lex Luthor run on Action Comics.

RR: BIG TIME!

MEG: Sooooo seconded on the ‘Tec [Detective Comics to its friends] run. Snyder with Jock and Francesco Francavilla.

NICK: Yeah, Snyder and Jock’s run on ‘Tec.

MIKE: Yep!

NICK: But yeah the whole thing is pretty great.

JV: Well, I’m gonna act like I hate it so that Tucker Stone will like me.

MIKE: I can’t wait ’til they release it in trade. I just want to mow through it again.

NICK: [amazon_link id="B00559VS6G" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Uncanny X-Force[/amazon_link], the [amazon_link id="B005EBZNDY" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Dark Angel Saga[/amazon_link] so far!

RYAN: Ditto on the [amazon_link id="B0050VGIMS" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Dark Angel Saga[/amazon_link]!

Esad Ribic's covers for Uncanny X-Force are all neat-o keen-o.

RR: I need to re-read [amazon_link id="B005JF4GAG" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Dark Angel Saga[/amazon_link].

MIKE: So far that’s been amazing too.

RR: I keep getting lost during the month-long breaks.

NICK: I’m excited to see it wrapped up.

MIKE: Me too, it’s got one issue left.

RR: I hate that it’s wrapping after they already announced the new X-teams, now everyone knows who dies, if it wasn’t already obvious.

NICK: Yeah, I was reading a Rick Remender interview today, it talks about Psylocke and Wolverine being on opposite sides, and having it explained in #19.

JV: BEST PUBLISHING COMPANY

RR: Marvel

JV: Who gives a fuck? Why did I make THIS a category?

MATT: I like DC for their rolling back of prices.

MIKE: DC for actually pulling of the New 52 successfully, and the price rollback.

RYAN: DC (price cuts!)

MEG: DC wins this year.

NICK: DC – Drawing the line at $2.99! Next year, whoever drops $1 off their digital comics from store cost.

JV: BEST COMBO WRITER / ARTIST

MEG: J.H Williams III.

MIKE: J.H Williams III. Batwoman is insanely good. Like, I’m impressed he’s been able to keep the quality of the art up.

NICK: J.H. Williams III is a solid choice.

Art? J.H. Williams III - colors by Dave motherfuckin' Stewart!

JV: Eric Powell ([amazon_link id="1595823468" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Goon[/amazon_link]) or Jeff Smith ([amazon_link id="1888963204" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]RASL[/amazon_link])

RR: I like Slott, Remender and Aaron. Can’t decide for sure. Slott’s ASM has been phenomenal.

JV: HUH? LISTEN TO THE FUCKING CATEGORY!

MIKE: This is for a writer who is also the artist.

NICK: Jagass.

RR: Oh.

JV: I GONNA SUE YOU!

RR: I’m not paying attention…[amazon_link id="B003L77GK6" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Sons of Anarchy[/amazon_link] is about to come on [my face.]

MIKE: (Who has been huffing furniture polish for the last 5 pages, BTW) Which logically means make you agree with me and say [amazon_link id="B005I63N5A" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Batwoman[/amazon_link].

NICK: I like that Batwoman is going to be one of the Hardcover releases.

MIKE: Me too. Uh, anybody want some furniture polish? I forgot I was hogging.

JV: BEST WRITER

RR: SLOTT!

MEG: Scott Snyder.

NICK: Rick Remender!

RYAN: Jason Aaron (X-Men Schism, Wolverine and the X-Men, [amazon_link id="0785147853" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Wolverine[/amazon_link].)

MATT: Jason Aaron.

MIKE: Scott Snyder.

RR: OR REMENDER OR AARON!

MIKE: Remender is a close second.

NICK: [amazon_link id="0785158111" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Venom[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="B005TLUJXS" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]X-Force[/amazon_link], [and now that Mike is sharing his polish, I'll pretend Remender's also written] [amazon_link id="0785152555" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Secret Avengers[/amazon_link].

JV: JEFF PARKER! And / or the Mignola-Arcudi team.

NICK: Slott would be my close second, Bendis would be third.

MIKE: Batman, Detective, American Vampire, Swamp Thing. Snyder has been a beast this year.

JV: Nick Spencer would run away with it if not for his Marvel crap.

RR: Slott has done the best ASM since Michelinie.

NICK: Fraction would be here, if he didn’t unleash a stinkbomb called [amazon_link id="B0060GWOGG" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear Itself[/amazon_link].

JV: Right.

NICK: Snyder has been awesome.

MIKE: Agreed. I agree with my own vote.

NICK: And higher. [??]

RR: Bendis gets on my nerves a lot.

NICK: He is too talky, but he does great dialogue.

JV: I like BMB.

RR: [amazon_link id="B0063U5RS6" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]New Avengers 18[/amazon_link] didn’t need an entire issue of the same character set-ups over and over and over.

JV: Yeah, he DOES waste a lot of time.

MIKE: [amazon_link id="0785148728" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]New Avengers[/amazon_link] has become Real World: Avengers Mansion.

NICK: [amazon_link id="0785151699" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Moon Knight[/amazon_link] is a book everyone should be reading!

JV: BEST ARTIST

RR: Marcos Martin.

MEG: Shit, this could go to Jock, Francavilla, Nicola Scott for existing, JFC I can’t decide!

MIKE: Artist would be Travel Foreman right now.

JV: It would be if Marcos Martin died right now. Travel the fuck outta here with that damn shit!

Same art team as the Cathedral, with letters by VC's Joe Caramagna. But art by THE BEST ARTIST OF 2011, from THE BEST COMIC OF 2011, probably.

RYAN: Paola Rivera ([amazon_link id="0785152377" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Daredevil[/amazon_link].)

MIKE: Or, I love [amazon_link id="B005XFYPBW" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Thunderbolts[/amazon_link] when Kev Walker’s on it.

NICK: Cliff Chiang is the best artist right now.

NICK: Shame he isn’t working on more stuff.

MIKE: He gets an honorable mention. And hey, Travel Foreman does some pretty cool stuff.

RR: I’m starting to dig Humberto Ramos, although some of his art is still way too anime-ish for me to dig on a 616 (the “main” shared Marvel Universe) book.

NICK: Yeah, I dig Ramos too. His Spider-Island stuff was good.

RR: Yeah. (Suddenly punches Nick in the kidney.) He’s developed a nice balance between that anime style and more cartoonish realism.

MIKE: It’s still funny and odd in all the right ways.

JV: BEST OVERALL SINGLE ISSUE

JV: [amazon_link id="B005CCR7PM" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Amazing Spider-Man #655[/amazon_link].

RR: ASM 655.

MIKE: Animal Man #2. Sorry guys, I don’t read Spider-Man.

NICK: ASM 655.

JV: It’s unanimous! [amazon_link id="0785151036" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Amazing Spider-Man #655[/amazon_link]!

JV: BEST SERIES (Non-Marvel or DC)

MIKE:  CHEW.

NICK: Real fast, does Icon count as non-Marvel?

JV: Uhhh… NO.

NICK: So Vertigo is out then, too.

JV: Likewise, Vertigo and Wildstorm are DC Comics.

MIKE: CHEW, guys? [Here, the transcriber has deleted Mike’s Ben Stein shtick from some [amazon_link id="B000BNX4MC" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]shit[/amazon_link] John Hughes movie.]

NICK: I’m going [amazon_link id="1607063980" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Chew[/amazon_link] too. [amazon_link id="1607063352" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Chew[/amazon_link] is awesome.

MIKE: I want that to be a showtime series, with John Goodman as Savoy.

NICK: I only read it by trade, but it is a great read. It’s one of those books that I tell my wife to read, and she usually hates everything I suggest comic-wise, and she read the first trade and was like, “When can I read the next trade?” It passes the wife test!

MIKE: Cool.

JV: Invincible or Atomic Robo or Mignolaverse stuff ([amazon_link id="1595827579" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Hellboy[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id="1595827560" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]BPRD[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id="1595829253" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Abe Sapien[/amazon_link] miniseries.)

JV: BEST SERIES – MARVEL

NICK: [amazon_link id="B005MGGV96" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Uncanny X-Force[/amazon_link].

MIKE: Agreed, [amazon_link id="B00632VCA6" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Uncanny X Force[/amazon_link].

MATT: [amazon_link id="0785152377" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Daredevil[/amazon_link].

JV: [amazon_link id="0785155783" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]HULK[/amazon_link]. Or [amazon_link id="0785152210" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Thunderbolts[/amazon_link]. Jeff Parker has not sucked yet, not even once.

RR: ASM or [amazon_link id="0785158871" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]X-Force[/amazon_link].

RYAN: [amazon_link id="B005M2156O" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Daredevil[/amazon_link].

MIKE: I would say [amazon_link id="0785157980" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Thunderbolts[/amazon_link], but Kev’s art is half of it and he was never consistently there.

RR: [amazon_link id="0785151389" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Deadpool[/amazon_link] is still fun, though.

JV: BEST SERIES – DC

MIKE: [amazon_link id="B0060XPBM8" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Animal Man[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id="B0060Z8ISA" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Swamp Thing[/amazon_link] tie.

RYAN: Animal Man.

JV: [amazon_link id="1401233066" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fables[/amazon_link].

NICK: [amazon_link id="140123206X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Detective[/amazon_link], pre-New-52 reboot.

NICK: Best Vertigo – [amazon_link id="1401233333" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]American Vampire[/amazon_link]. Best Icon -[amazon_link id="0785152512" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ] Scarlet[/amazon_link].

MIKE: Scott Snyder continues to roll on.

JV: BEST COMIC THING OF ANY SORT OF THE YEAR

MIKE: Archie comics putting out a [amazon_link id="1897376162" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Megaman[/amazon_link] comic book counts for me. Being serious here. I’m a Capcom fanboy.

MATT: I love my new[amazon_link id="B004ZHDI80" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ] Thor hammer key chain[/amazon_link]! It is really heavy and hurts if I hit you with it.

NICK: Best Comic Thing is either Greg Guillemin’s art prints – or my new New Era Batman Snapback.

JV: President Axe Cop’s prayer to God at the end of [amazon_link id="1595828257" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Bad Guy Earth #3[/amazon_link]. No, wait – I change my vote to Sammy Braddy!

MIKE: Our collective talents being brought together by Matt to form this.

MATT: Thanks! OW!

JV: Mike wins! OKAY NOW LEAVE, A-HOLES!

(No Comics Vault writer was ever seen alive again – OR WERE THEY?)

Kukuburi

Our Underwear 12: Be free… or die!

by John Velousis

Part 1 – Is today Halloween? I’m pretty sure it’s Halloween.

In honor of today’s holiday, and because I take joy in complete lack of editorial oversight, I’m going to write about my favorite horror movies, as well as bunch of other shit that has little or nothing to do with comic books. Dig, these are MY favorite horror movies. I make no claim to knowing a lot about horror films in general. Ergo, it would be foolish and irresponsible for me to claim that these are history’s BEST horror films, so I won’t do that. I try my best to only be irresponsible OR foolish, not both at once.

I have film biases: I prefer films from the ‘MPAA Ratings Era,’ that being the late 1960s onward;  While a movie doesn’t HAVE to have the word “fuck” in it to be good, I like it better if they CAN have it when they want. So, none of the great Val Lewton-Jacques Tournier films make the list, although I liked [amazon_link id="B000A0GOF0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Cat People[/amazon_link] and am quite partial to [amazon_link id="B0000694WH" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Night of the Demon[/amazon_link]. In fact, I absolutely LOVE the footage at the end of [amazon_link id="B0000694WH" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]NotD[/amazon_link], despite the fact that it was forced upon the creators by the studio. It still looks totally baller to me. Another bias, I haven’t seen many J-Horror films – not [amazon_link id="B002C8YSCE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Audition[/amazon_link], not [amazon_link id="B000088NQR" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ringu[/amazon_link], not [amazon_link id="B00005JNJR" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ju-On (The Grudge.)[/amazon_link] I’ve seen [amazon_link id="B0037C1WF0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Suicide Club[/amazon_link] and that’s about it. I’m not a HUGE foreign film guy in general, although I have seen every movie ever directed by Sabu ([amazon_link id="B001EI5C5A" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Unlucky Monkey[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="B002MOE9FO" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Monday[/amazon_link], The Blessing Bell, etc.,) and 95% of Luis Bunuel’s films and most of Stephen Chow’s output (in the vain hopes of seeing anything NEAR as awesome as his [amazon_link id="B000F9RB8A" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Kung Fu Hustle[/amazon_link].) I’m way weak on Italian and British horror too. No Argento, Bava, Hammer Studios, Quatermass films, nothing with Triffids… Jesus Christ, why am I even doing this? I suck! Oh well, here goes. All of the following are in English, unless otherwise noted (I think only one isn’t.)

[amazon_link id="B000RO9PUU" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Witchfinder General (a/k/a/ The Conqueror Worm)[/amazon_link]  (D: Michael Reeves, 1968) I saw this for the first time as a child on TV. It was on a local ‘Creature-Feature’ show hosted by “The Son of Svengoolie,” a comedy-oriented character played by Chicagoan Rich Koz. This movie is NOT a comedy – it is a paean to the hopelessness of nobility. It aired under its alias, and I expected (for real) some kind of giant Godzilla of a worm; instead, this flick blew my fucking mind. Vincent Price is the antagonist, vile real-life “Witchhunter” Matthew Hopkins, a creature of Cromwell’s England. He abuses his power to indulge his sadism and to rape and torture women that catch his fancy, with the aid of a brutish assistant. Reined in mercilessly by director Reeves, Price gives the performance of his life, not allowing a single iota of camp sensibility to creep in – he is just EVIL, a human monster. Then at the end, the bad-guy dies, but the film’s protagonist loses, his love loses, ALL OF HUMANITY loses. After completing this film, its director, Michael Reeves, killed himself (overdose of booze ‘n’ pills, probably accidental, still…) Now THAT is talkin’ the talk and walkin’ the walk. P.S. There’s no giant worm.

[amazon_link id="B000F3UA8E" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Cemetery Man (a/k/a Dellamorte Dellamore)[/amazon_link] (D: Michele Soavi, 1994) YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. Sorry to shout, that was rude of me. This film is really amazing, though. I love this film even more than I love compound sentences. It’s hard to describe this one. It’s not straight-up horror – in fact, it’s close to being not frightening at all, although it does have busloads of gore. It’s an existential tragi-comedic zombie film about madness and, y’know, death and love. And loving the dead, and killing the loved, and mixin’ it up a bunch. Rupert Everett is the engineer, er, I mean cemetery caretaker. Anna Falchi is the exemplar of sexual lust itself, her that sends Everett’s blood rushing to the place where blood rushes. They live, they love, they die, they love some more, they live some more, and the whole world doesn’t really exist. I mean actually, not in the movie. Just saying that apropos of nothing.

Searches for Cemetery Man images yield a LOT of pix of Anna Falchi's bazooms. This isn't one such.

[amazon_link id="B000FS9FE4" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Texas Chain Saw Massacre[/amazon_link] (D: Tobe Hooper, 1974) “An insane movie, directed in an insane way.” That’s how my college film teacher, the late and great Dr. Richard DeCordova, described this journey from normality in America to the heart of nihilism. The final shots, Leatherface’s mad dance of hatred, his lust to destroy and consume his victim, the land, the world, the sun itself… those visions tattooed themselves painfully onto my skull. Deservedly a classic.

 

[amazon_link id="B003KGBIRK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Videodrome[/amazon_link] (D: David Cronenberg, 1983) All hail the new flesh. Profoundly weird, weirdly profound. James Woods at his peak, when he used to ooze danger from every acne scar on his face. Debbie Harry, young and hot and perverted, saying, “Want to try some things?” “Brian O’Blivion,” the prophet who only appears on a TV screen because he believes that the cathode ray tube is more real than reality. Assassination, cultism, cable TV perversion, nightmare clay-walled torture rooms, suicide. And videocassettes… they’re BETTER than bug-typewriters, because they have TWO rectum-objects, which is clearly why this film is better than Naked Lunch.

"And THAT's not my belly button! Oh, wait..."

[amazon_link id="B000GBEWH0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Dead Zone[/amazon_link] (D: David Cronenberg, 1983 – not a typo, Cronenberg was just a MUTHA in 1983.) Stephen King didn’t think much of this adaptation, nor does the world in general, but I thought it was fantastic. In one of his too-few lead roles, Christopher Walken is at his peak, being weird and poignant and angry and heroic. As doomed psychic Johnny Smith, he nails it in every scene. Martin Sheen gets to play the President of the USA for the first time (kind of) and is… notably illiberal. Plenty of other excellent supporting players – Tom Skerritt, Brooke Adams, Herbert Lom, Anthony Zerbe – but this is Walken’s film all the way. His delivery of the line, “God’s been a real SPORT to me!” is golden. Yeah, they made a TV series of it too.

[amazon_link id="B0002CHK1S" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Thing[/amazon_link] (D: John Carpenter, 1982) Just a totally cool movie. Paranoid suspense locked in with you. CLEAR!

[amazon_link id="B005HT400A" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Blue Velvet[/amazon_link] (D: David Lynch, 1986) Dennis Hopper’s portrayal of sociopath Frank Booth is amazing, and here’s why: The first few times I saw this movie, he scare the living shit out of me. Then, as time went by, his performance AMUSED the shit out of me. Seriously, I now crack up at his readings of lines like this one to Jeffrey (Kyle McLachlan): ” Do me a favor. Don’t be a good neighbor to her anymore. Or I’ll send you a love letter…[shouting] straight from my heart, fucker! Do you know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker! You receive a love letter from me, and you’re fucked forever!” It’s one of the most amazing performances of the ’80s. Hopper was not a large or imposing man, but the madness he sent to his eyes was shocking and delirious. And the subtext is pretty cool too, but I’ll let you figure that shit out for yourself.

"Hnngh! Hnngh! What're these?!?"A laff riot, I'm tellin' ya.

[amazon_link id="B000UJ48WC" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Shining[/amazon_link] (D: Stanley Kubrick, 1980) Another Stephen King adaptation. This one, he out-and-out HATED. King is just NOT a very good judge of his adapted works. Two hours plus of nearly nothing BUT slow burn, capped by a final shot that tells us: Hell is in the world; Evil is forever.

[amazon_link id="B005J9ZE5I" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn[/amazon_link] (D: Sam Raimi, 1987) You know what’s fun? FUN, that’s what.

[amazon_link id="B004CP2566" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Repulsion[/amazon_link] (D: Roman Polanski, 1965) Catherine Deneuve is beautiful and batshit cuckoo insane in this one. Roman Polanski outdoes his later [amazon_link id="B00003CXCF" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Rosemary’s Baby[/amazon_link] in this suspense tour-de-force. Every minute that goes by, the viewer thinks more and more and more, “Something BAD is going to happen.” It does.

[amazon_link id="B0002I84DK" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning[/amazon_link] (D: Grant Harvey, 2004) Please look past the awful title. The kinda-sequel to [amazon_link id="B002PSSNZE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ginger Snaps[/amazon_link] (D: John Fawcett, 2000), if sequels took place 120 years before their predecessors but depicted the CONSEQUENCES of the earlier film. This film is my favorite of all the great “menstruation-is-a-monster” movies ([amazon_link id="B00005K3NR" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Carrie[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="B00006G8H3" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Company of Wolves[/amazon_link], etc.) The story benefits from being transported to a setting where witchcraft hysteria has a role to play… somewhat hilariously, since werewolves and witches are totally different, right? Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins reprise their roles again (there was a more conventionally set sequel released the same year) as the sisters who have a wee problem with the beast within. Great and weird in the way Canadian horror often is. Ask David Cronenberg. Or Neil Young. (Neil hasn’t made any horror stuff that I know of, but it would still probably be fun to talk to Neil Young.)

It IS a riding hood, I would venture to say.

[amazon_link id="B0026ATDQE" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Host[/amazon_link] (D: Joon-ho Bong, 2006) Mostly in Korean, with a little bit of English from an appropriately near-sighted and cross-eyed American. A reinvention of giant monster films like, you know, Mothra and such. Cloverfield is a good point of comparison, but this film breaks more conventions and carries more emotional weight as well as metaphoric heft. It’s entertaining and edifying, which is nice.

Honorable mentions:
[amazon_link id="B000ID37KY" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Bride of Frankenstein[/amazon_link] (James Whale, 1935) The perfect reaction to being rejected romantically? Destroying the mansion you’re in so it falls upon you and everybody within, while announcing to everybody there, “We belong dead!”

[amazon_link id="B00000K3TO" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Night of the Living Dead[/amazon_link] (George Romero, 1968) Invented the modern zombie story, scary as a knife dancing around your eyes.

[amazon_link id="B001NHN7TU" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Tremors[/amazon_link] (Ron Underwood, 1990) Has the funniest use ever of a right wing gun nut survivalist shelter. Pretty good otherwise too.

[amazon_link id="B000MKXEME" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Re-Animator[/amazon_link] (Stuart Gordon, 1985) Stylistic brother to Evil Dead 2, plus boobs!

 

Part 2 – Hell, while I’m just doing whatever I feel like, here are some of my favorite webcomix.

The links from the titles mostly go to the FIRST episode. Sometimes, it takes a little while for the series to find its sea legs, but these things are all free and all awesome. In fact, I’m not going to write any commentary for any of these, because while I probably could paraphrase the words “This rules!” ten different ways, the pictures tell more than I really could. Hence, pictures. Mangia!

The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl

Abominably adorable

  Lucid TV  by Jim Keogh, David Rothlein, and Ross Hutchinson Armstrong – EPILEPTIC WARNING – SCROLL DOWN TO THE LINKS!

yr mommys ded

Sin Titulo by Cameron Stewart

Amazing Superpowers by Wes & Tony- I couldn’t find their full names anywhere.

Kukuburi by Ramon Perez
Axe Cop byEthan Nicholle and Malachai Nicholle – no image here.  Come ON, you don’t know [amazon_link id="1595826815" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Axe Cop[/amazon_link] yet? Go know [amazon_link id="1595828257" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Axe Cop[/amazon_link]! I consider (spoiler!) President Axe Cop’s prayer to God at the end of [amazon_link id="1595828257" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Bad Guy Earth[/amazon_link] to be THE single funniest thing I have ever read in a comic book, and I’ve read a LOT of comic books. Like, more than seventy!

Hark, A Vagrant  by Kate Beaton – this one’s really a gimme as well. Who in the world doesn’t know [amazon_link id="1770460608" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Hark, A Vagrant[/amazon_link]?

Dar by Erika Moen – I ran into Ms. Moen by way of Bucko, the webcomic on which she collaborates with Jeff Parker. Bucko is great too, but I didn’t include it here because frankly I think I talk about Jeff Parker too much.

Awesome Hospital by Chad Bowers, Chris Sims, Matt Digges, and Josh Krach

Not named on-panel (from R to L): Dr. Luchadore, Dr. Motorbike, and Nurse Holding-A-Dark-Gray-Rectangle.

Bun Toons by Ty Templeton. The usual Bun Toon is too long for me to grab and paste here, but the creator of [amazon_link id="0921451024" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Stig’s Inferno[/amazon_link] and lots of other stuff is still hilarious and great.

And that’s a wrap! I think this might be the first post I’ve submitted before 2:00 AM, so you’d think I’d be able to come up with a not-so-abrupt way to end what I’m saying. Sorry! I’m not good at endings.

 

 

 

Robo falls

Our Underwear 11: The Super-Secret Vengeance of Atomic Robo’s Hell in Russia!

In which I present the last week in review (aside from bad Marvel “event” stuff) but dispense with the device of numbering the discrete elements of this piece.

Best comic of the week: Atomic Robo and the Ghost of Station X #2 (of 5)

Drop everything!
This cover is by the team that did the interior art. How delightfully novel!

Words: Brian Clevinger    Art: Scott Wegener    Colors: Ronda Pattison    Letters: Jeff Powell    Editing: Lee Black

Here’s what a fan can find in Atomic Robo: Excellent art, snappy patter, good gags in the minutiae of background details, fidelity – and even fondness – for the world of science (caveat in next paragraph), near-unparalleled action set-pieces, stylistic bravery, and a self-contained universe that builds upon itself exponentially with each volume. I sincerely believe that the world of Atomic Robo is beginning to deserve comparison to Mike Mignola’s universe of [amazon_link id="1593079109" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Hellboy[/amazon_link] and the [amazon_link id="1595826726" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]B.P.R.D.[/amazon_link] in its scope and ambition. In fact, the most apt way to describe the Roboverse might be something like, “The Mignolaverse, but with physics and adventure replacing demonology and horror.” And that is HUGE praise.

The premise itself does need a comics-sized suspension of disbelief. It is: Nikola Tesla created a sentient nuclear-powered robot in secret a hundred years ago. Tesla has become THE go-to guy for steampunk sci-fi unlikelihoods. Off the top of my head, he is a deus ex-machina in [amazon_link id="B000L212HC" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]The Prestige[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="1582406057" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Five Fists of Science[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="1888963204" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]RASL[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="0785144226" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]S.H.I.E.L.D.[/amazon_link], and this. I think that [amazon_link id="1888963204" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]RASL[/amazon_link] is the only one that gives him credit for both the [amazon_link id="B000096IAC" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Philadelphia Experiment[/amazon_link] AND the Tunguska Event. What the hell, go with it, Tesla invented sentience a hundred years ago, why not? You’d be a fool to miss this fantastic world but for that. You don’t want to be a fool, so that’s settled.

As this issue opens, our hero – Robo – is falling. Credit the cover with truth in advertising on top of its other virtues. Robo had launched into the stratosphere on a mere seven hours notice in a desperate attempt to save some astronauts… but his craft got creamed by a NASA satellite. So, this:

Robo falls
We've all been there, am I right?

Man. Look at that. The struggle and desperation to live explodes off the page pounds ya right in the viscera until what you have left is a totally pounded-to-hell viscera. Ouch! Do I even need to continue? Last week was a pretty flippin’ good week for comics, and this one was the best. You know what to do.

Best re-issue of the week: [amazon_link id="B000WOVVC0" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]DC Comics Presents Superman: Secret Identity[/amazon_link]

Secret ID
Now, that is just lovely.

Writer: Kurt Busiek      Artist (pencils, inks, colors): Stuart Immonen      Letters: Todd Klein

On his Twitter feed, Kurt Busiek opines that this is among his very best work. He ain’t wrong, and considering that he has also written [amazon_link id="1401229840" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Astro City[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id="078514286X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Marvels[/amazon_link], and the Avengers’ [amazon_link id="0785107746" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Ultron Unlimited[/amazon_link] storyline, that’s saying something. It’s NOT a tale of Kal-El, the last son of Krypton. It is, instead, the tale of a young man who constantly gets teased with “Superman” references because his parents – name of Kent – misguidedly named him “Clark.” Oh, and when he’s seventeen or so, he becomes an actual superhuman. As J. Jonah Jameson might say, “What are the odds?”

But Busiek rocks the premise from honeymoon to Brigadoon, and Immonen does perhaps the best work of HIS excellent career – yeah, better than [amazon_link id="0785144617" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.[/amazon_link]  or [amazon_link id="1603090495" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Moving Pictures[/amazon_link]. The guys inspire each other to heights in this story that is NOT about becoming Superman, but about becoming a man. Except nowhere close to as cheesy as that sentence I just wrote. It’s about friendship and love and trust. And it’s about being a young man and getting captured by the government for the first time, and resenting it.

SID burn
Kind of a 'flames' theme to the images so far, eh? Hey, where's his weiner?

Honestly, I’m an ENORMOUS fan of what DC is doing in their reissues of their most fantastic work of the last two decades in this format, which splits the difference (price-point-wise) between monthly floppies and trade paperbacks. This $7.99 magazine does NOT, as it happens, have the entire series, just the first two issues. You’d never be able to tell. This is a must-own.

Also very good: [amazon_link id="B005WD4VLO" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth: Russia#2 (of 5)[/amazon_link]

BPRD Russia 2
Cover by Dave Johnson - hot damn tamale, last week was a great week for COVERS too, hanh?

Story: Mike Mignola and John Arcudi      Art: Tyler Crook      Colors: Dave Stewart      Letters: Clem Robins

“Every few years, [Mignola and cohorts do some totally awesome Abe Sapien stuff.] Then, five years later, they drop some huge callback on you letting you know WHY it all happened. ” – Me, 10/5/11.

Abe callback
Nailed it! (Okay, okay, The Abyssal Plain came out June & July of 2010. Still...)

Awesome series, awesome world-building, awesome excuse to toot my horn.

Scarface up there is the boss of Russia’s BPRD analogue. He got the job, so he says, because his having been dead for 40 years makes him a natural for paranormal type stuff. This issue demonstrates that he did NOT get the job because of his people skills. Beyond that, I don’t know what to say – what have you been doing with your life if you aren’t reading BPRD by now? You can’t see it, but now I’m slowly shaking my head in disappointment.

I’m digging this series too: [amazon_link id="B005VSHFQI" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Vengeance #4 (of 6)[/amazon_link]

Loki
Well, Loki there!

The credits are right there on the cover, cut me some slack.

Another lovely cover, this one by Gabrielle Dell’otto, and one that proves that a picture of nothing but a single character – not even so much as a background – can still be quite un-boring. The angle of the shot, facial expression, color choices, the medium itself (looks painted, I’d say) all add up to Something New on this cover. Actually, I dropped the ball this week and don’t have a Boring Cover of the Week, which is too bad, because I’m sure there must have been another cover of SOME comic last week with just a lone figure that just sucked. Wait, I’m being boring. Sorry about that!

This series is interesting – I still don’t know where it’s going, but I sure as hell want to find out. The forces of neutral continue to take on the forces of evil and, this issue, an uncharacteristically malicious Kid Loki – it doesn’t look to me like Joe Casey and Kieron Gillen are on the same wavelength with future Legionnaire Loki-Lad, but that’s no big whoop – he IS the god of chaos and mischief, after all. He’s earned the right to be mercurial.

Hey, I just heard a suspicious noise from downstairs, I’ll be right back.

 

 

Splitlip gets analytical

Our Underwear #10 – The ONLY Fear Itself post you will ever need to read!

by John Velousis

Part 1 – Everything that was right about Fear Itself #7 and the event in general (Kinda spoiler free, maybe?)

1. It totally made sense and was pretty cool when Captain America picked up [that one thing.] Right?
2. I dug how Hawkeye looked kinda pissed because he WANTED missing a shot to be a possibility.

FI Stinkeye
Sucks if he's trying to do that thing where you shoot a chandelier so it falls on somebody. Oh, all FI#7 art is Stuart Immonen, and/or Wade Von Grawbadger (who drew with vines?), and/or Laura Martin "with Ponsor & Milla" - Jesus, even the CREDITS are stupid and fucked up.

3. [amazon_link id="B005CWOQ1K" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear Itself: Deadpool[/amazon_link] ruled the roost. BIG UPS to Christopher Hastings (W), Bong [!] Dazo (Pcls), Joe Pimentel (Inks), Matt Milla (Clrs), and Simon Bowland (Ltrs).

Walrus
It happens, you know.

4. [amazon_link id="078514840X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Journey Into Mystery[/amazon_link] was the big winner among the non-limited series (in theory) tying into FI. I’ll be talking about last week’s issue at length NEXT week, since the next issue drops Wednesday, but Kieron Gillen womped like a MUTHA in Loki’s adventures. My quick take: This series killed the ass off  Superman Beyond 3D, Grant Morrison’s shorter but similarly-themed adjunct to [amazon_link id="140122282X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Final Crisis[/amazon_link]. Really.
5. [amazon_link id="0785163891" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear Itself: The Home Front[/amazon_link] had a lot of good stuff. I’m a fan of Mike Mayhew’s particular brand of painted photo-realism, so I’m glad to have seen a bunch of that. BUT, his stuff really pops for me when he has garish colors to work with, so it was a li’l bit sucky that Christos Gage had him (and colorista Rain Beredo) draw so many normal schmucks and baddies whose costumes were just black. Anyhow, the series still had plenty of good stuff, with the standout pieces being most of Howard Chaykin’s pages, the awesome American Eagle piece in #5 by Si Spurrier & Jason Latour, and the always-welcome Great Lakes Avengers/Defenders/X-Men/JLI, by Elliott Kalan, Ty Templeton, and David Curiel.
6. [amazon_link id="0785157018" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear Itself: Youth In Revolt[/amazon_link] (W,A,C,L: McKeever, Norton, Gandini, and Cowles) was a worthwhile read, and it has this:

Metamucil!
You say Meta, I say LaMotta.

7. [amazon_link id="B005PHT6G2" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fear Itself: The Monkey King[/amazon_link] (a Fialkov-Doe-Quintana-Lanphear joint) was more fun than watching Joyce Carol Oates foolin’ around with a monkey. Which I have imagined many times.

That’s the good stuff. Any parts of the Marvel [Publishing] Universe that tied into Fear Itself and were good – the best F.I. moments from Invincible Iron Man or Thunderbolts or New Avengers or whatever – do NOT get especial credit, because they would have been just fine WITHOUT the big event. Well, maybe the MODOK thing from Hulk needed a suitably big world threat to help Ole’ Big-Head learn to love. Hard to say.

Part 2 – The BAD things about Fear Itself #7 and the event in general

1. Odin’s plan was absolutely moronic, unrealistic, cowardly, contemptible, poor strategy, and generally asinine. Nobody anywhere doesn’t think this.
2. Captain America using shotguns to easily blow Nazi red-shirts robots out of the sky. Look at all the piled-up wiped-out robot-VolksWagen things:

Cap guns
That grumpy old dude sure wants them to come on!

Golly, if only they had this amazing “shotgun” technology available in Washington, D.C., which those things supposedly totally destroyed. Instead, all they had available in Washington were tanks, fighter jets, bazookas, grenades, and EVERY PIECE OF WEAPON TECHNOLOGY THAT COULD BE BOUGHT WITH 50% OF EVERY FUCKING AMERICAN TAX DOLLAR FOR THE LAST 40 YEARS.
3. Humanity all simultaneously Not Being Afraid was predictable from roughly one second after we found out that the big bad, The Sears Pants, is powered by human fear.
4. The “death” of Thor while he has a current ongoing series has about as much dramatic heft as the death of Kenny in episode #29 of [amazon_link id="B00023P49M" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]South Park[/amazon_link]. Also, what did he die of, exactly? Anvilitis? The only question on anybody’s mind is how long Marvel will pay lip service to the idea of Thor being dead. But Thor is immortal – not because he’s a “god,” but because he is a corporate property. A corporate property will not and cannot be made to stay in the grave as long as it can be monetized.
5. Just, in general: Fuck prophecy. Don’t like it. Crap story device, except when Loki wields it.
6. BTW also, Heimdal can suck it. What a tool. He just basically does nothing ever except watch Odin act like the king of all assholes, followed by blindly obeying whatever whack shit Odin demands of him.
7. The dialogue in the main series was bad. All of it.
8. If I gave a shit about continuity, I would point out sloppy errors like Captain America’s un-scarred shield in his new series (or the OBVIOUS problems with aerodynamics this would create), or Cap’s WAY continuity-sloppy appearance in Daredevil. Suffice to say, there’s no clear idea what happened when ANYWHERE. (Can you order Fear Itself, Spider Island, Schism, FF’s War of Four Cities, etc? I sure as shit can’t.)
9. I regard Fear Itself (Main Series), Book of the Skull, Hulk vs Dracula, The Deep, FF, and The Fearless (Issue #1 only, not buying the rest) as a fucking waste of sixty bucks. I spent money on all of this, I don’t get review copies (and probably never will with an attitude like this!)
10. So, here is Sin at the end of the big Fear Itself battle.

DARN YOU!
WAKE UP, SIN, I HAVE TO BE SURE YOU HEAR ME READ YOU YOUR RIGHTS!

Let’s ignore the fact that her face is a red skull because of horrible burn scars that are suddenly smooth. Instead, I want to know if she was jailed in any of the prisons that held Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, or Mohamar Ghaddaffi. Oh, wait a sec, it slipped my mind, those guys – who ADDED TOGETHER killed about 5% of Sin’s headcount as the cause of Fear Itself – got killed the fuck dead as soon as ANYBODY laid eyes on them. Seriously, did Captain America fistfight the entire population of Asgard to keep them from chopping off her head? In what silly-assed world is she alive, other than as an act of a god who has a product to move?
11. This:

FI buy it! BS
FI buy it! Defenders

As dental models.

FI buy it! It's coming
"On my face."
FI buy it! FOLLOW
I hate this fucking word.

Are event comics ALWAYS money-grabs by desperate companies who hope the jump in sales makes up for the rotten aftertaste that never, ever goes away? Hey Marvel, keep searching for the new Jim Shooter, okay?

Part 3 – And now, a word from the medium of comics

And from me. Me and comics, both at once somehow.

Splitlip gets analytical
"So... wanna go to my place?" "... All right." Art: Larroca Color: D'Armata Plot: Fraction

The above is my favorite scene from Invincible Iron Man #509, which I have profaned by replacing Matt Fraction’s  words with MY OWN treatise on What Is Good, which differs shamefully from that of Conan the Barbarian. End of column, thanks!

 

Deadmouth

Our Underwear #9 – Deadly U.S. melons!

by John Velousis

Part 1 – Why ask why?

Over on MySpace, I’m friends with a guy who has a minor role in the comic book industry – he’s an inker for a letterer, something like that. He read one of my screeds about boring comic book covers and hipped me to this truth: The cover often has to be done WAY in advance of the story. I understand how that could lead to a cover that could be swapped out with any other issue of the same comic, but my beef is NOT that the covers don’t tell you what’s inside the comic. Nopey McShmopey, not mostly, anyhow. No, my beef is the lack of thought that happens BEFORE the drawing even begins. To demonstrate, I’ve issued myself a challenge: In 20 minutes, I’m going to try to think up as many covers as I can featuring the New Avengers line-up of Daredevil, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Spider-man, Luke Cage, Jessica “Diamond” Cage (nee’ Jones), and the Thing.

There are rules, too. 1) No homages. I can’t say, “Everybody’s posing like in the poster of The Breakfast Club.” Or “It’s the cover to [amazon_link id="B000000OAA" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack[/amazon_link], with Wolverine laying in Freddy’s place, Spider-Man as John Deacon, Ms. Marvel as Brian May, and The Thing in Roger Taylor’s spot.” Although that would be a totally fucking cool cover, now that I think about it. Shit, the latest issue should’ve been an homage to [amazon_link id="B000000OAC" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]News of the World[/amazon_link], with Ultimo in place of that album’s giant killer robot.

MARVEL          THE NEW AVENGERS
By the way, this album is awesome.

2) Every cover must have at least five of the seven members, and two of them ALWAYS have to be Spider-Man and Wolverine. Otherwise, where’s my money, honey? 3) The comic has to have some humanly possible way of being published by Marvel. This disqualifies entries like, “Ms. Marvel and Diamond lick each others’ tits like those Jerry Springer gals did on the pool table that one time. Meanwhile, the rest of the team watches and beats their meat.” I would never allow such depravity to see the light of day. 4) No reference may be used AT ALL. I cannot look around my room, Google-search images for “septet,” nothing but the inside of my head for inspiration. 5) I have to describe what everybody on the cover is doing. 6) I have to also type it all within the time limit. I cannot change any arrangements or add any elements afterward, but I may go back when I’m done and edit for spelling and grammar, and replace all the DD’s with Daredevil or Matt or whatever.

Okay, I’m going to set the alarm on my cell phone and get busy!
1) Wolverine, with corks on the ends of his left-hand claws, is fencing with Daredevil, who holds an epee in a mansion dining room with all the furniture pushed against the walls. They each have their off- hand behind their back. Spidey, Ms. Marvel, and Luke are rooting for DD, while The Thing and Diamond root for Wolverine.
2) Everybody is sprawled, exhausted after a tough day fighting evil. Luke has his arm around Jess – the 2 are sitting on a sofa. At the far end of the sofa, with a full cushion of space between him and Jessica, Spidey sits, mask-less, head tilted all the way back as he stares at the ceiling. Ben sits on the floor staring down, hands on knees. Matt is eating a cheeseburger in a comfy chair. Ms Marvel – no mask, otherwise full costume but with pajama pants over her boots and shorts – is flying, changing a light bulb on a ceiling fixture.
3) Avengers Mansion patio. Long close-up, Wolverine centered, holding up a bare hand with a prominent splinter, incredulous. Thing, Ms Marvel, Jess, and Luke all stare at the splinter, confused. WHOOPS! Forgot to include Spider-man until now, at the editing stage. Rules are made to be broken, so I’ll indulge myself. He is in the background, full costume, arching his back the wayy folks do when their back aches.
4) Wolverine sits on a curb, idly scraping cement with one claw. Ms Marvel and Luke are talking to a cop, while behind those two, Daredevil seems to be giving a contrite-postured Spider-Man a scolding.
5) Poolside, Ben & Luke are playing bloody knuckles*, each trying to avoid showing pain, each not completely successful. Spidey and Ms Marvel loll in swimsuits on chaise lounges -Spider-Man has only a mask and a Speedo with a spider on it, Ms. Marvel a two-piece. Wolverine has no mask, the top of his uniform, and a tasteful boxer-shorts swimsuit, sitting on pool edge with feet in water up to ankles. Jess is flying in fom a top corner, we see only her bare feet, up to the knees. (*This is a game where two people punch each other in the fist. – JV)
6) On Avengers lawn, Jessica holds a platform upon her shoulders, Atlas-like, upon which sit Ben, Luke, & Wolverine, and Spider-Man is sitting on it upside-down, cross-legged. Jess is giving him a dirty look. Ms Marvel is handing a beaming Daredevil money, but she doesn’t seem very upset about losing the bet.
7) We see a movie screening room, probably in Avengers Mansion. From behind a row of movie cinema chairs, we see one row with the backs of heads of Luke, Carol, Jessica, Spider-Man, and Wolverine (NOT necessarily in that order.) The last 2 have their masks pulled down around their necks. Ben, in foreground, enters from a brighter room holding a cookie sheet of chocolate chip cookies in his bare hands.
8) TIME!

Part 2 – Oh, cheeky cheeky.

Awesome cover of the week – it’s a tie! DC Universe Presents: Deadman #2 by Ryan Sook

Deadmouth
Oh yeah? Sook on THIS!

Wonder Woman #2 by Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman 2
Goddesses refuse to be besmirched by armpit hair! Even Greek ones!

Part 3 – Some of them will turn up when you least expect them to

Did Chris Giarrusso totally invent the new Ultimate X-Men? No! But he is the best there is at what he does..

I'm hot!
From [amazon_link id="0785142843" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Mini-Marvels Ultimate Colection[/amazon_link].

Coming this weekend: My thoughts on Fear Itself, event comics, greed, morality, honor, theft, and much much less!

Puckish charm

Our Underwear #8 – TUESDAY? But that’s TONIGHT (Tonight… tonight… tnit…)

Part 1 – Been a long time since I rock and rolled

Orchid #1

“Story”: Tom Morello

Art: Scott Hepburn

Colors: Dan Jackson

Letters: Nate Piekos of Blambot (which is a Registered legal entity)

Cover (THIS one): Shepard Fairey

GRADES:

Writing: Dismal

Art: Mediocre

Politics: Hypocritical at best

So, I didn’t like this. I WANTED to like it. As I said to Matt at Graham Cracker Comics, ” I hope it’s half as good as [amazon_link id="1593079788" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Umbrella [/amazon_link] [amazon_link id="B005HKKXH8" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Academy[/amazon_link] [written by musician Gerard Way.]” Matt said something like, “I doubt it’ll be CLOSE to half as good as [amazon_link id="1595823441" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Umbrella Academy[/amazon_link].”

As it turns out, if [amazon_link id="1595821635" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Umbrella Academy [/amazon_link](either series) consisted of nothing but the letter “U” on the front cover (as drawn by Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, OR Gerard Way,) this STILL would’nt be 1% as good as [amazon_link id="1593079788" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Umbrella Academy[/amazon_link].

It’s an unfair comparison, of course. [amazon_link id="B005HKKXH8" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]UA[/amazon_link] is one of the greatest comics ever made. Okay, well, then, this isn’t 1% as good as [amazon_link id="160706359X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Fall Out Toy Works[/amazon_link]. Still unfair, [amazon_link id="160706359X" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]FATW[/amazon_link] (while quite flawed) had a “ringer” on writing chores – Brett Lewis of the brilliant [amazon_link id="1401225268" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Winter Men[/amazon_link] fleshed out the story by Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy (and a couple of his cronies). In fact, while I’ve read none of the following, I have a hard time believing that Orchid approaches [amazon_link id="B004RDFRYA" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Amory Wars[/amazon_link] (Coheed & Cambria singer Claudio Sanchez – I’m told that ALL of the band’s albums tell the story of the Amory Wars. That seems goofy to me, but then, I’m a failed musician and they aren’t.), [amazon_link id="1934413054" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Walk In[/amazon_link] (ideas by the [amazon_link id="B000002WAA" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Eurythmics[/amazon_link]‘ Dave Stewart, NOT the kick-ass colorist of the same name), [amazon_link id="1401228917" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Lobo: Highway to Hell[/amazon_link] (Scott Ian of Anthrax and[amazon_link id="B00004NRW9" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ] S.O.D. [/amazon_link]- by the way, Stormtroopers of Death ARE thrash punk, there is no other. Maybe you didn’t know that.), [amazon_link id="1600102093" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Gene Simmons’ House of Horrors[/amazon_link] (Chaim Weitz of KISS), or even [amazon_link id="B00435EM8O" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Akuma-She [/amazon_link](which looks like shitty hentai porn and is written and penciled by little person Glenn Danzig of the[amazon_link id="B000000I3O" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ] Misfits[/amazon_link].) Okay, I’m piling on, but it’s because this comic suuuuucked.

I had unrealistic expectations. First of all, I wasn’t much of a Rage Against the Machine fan, so I forgot that Tom Morello was the GUITARIST and that Zach de la Rocha was the vocalist and lyricist. So, while “Fuck you! I won’t do what you tell me!” is a philosophy that is near and dear to my heart, it is NOT one that was written by Morello. Secondly, I really like orchids. They’re the best flower. There’s just no point even debating that. Finally, I’m a left-lib pinko type, and I figured at the very LEAST, this comic’s politics would jibe with my preconcieved prejudices. Well, the ideas kind of do, I guess – I agree that it’s bad for rich people to enslave everybody else. That does make them BAD GUYS, indeed. But, well,  I’m not so sure that rich people’s money would mean diddly shit after the utter collapse of civilization itself. Ya see, “When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed.” Yeah. Like, the water rose, you dig, and it SMOOSHED the “genetic codes” of froggies and clownfishes and komodo dragons and people together, making them into mean looking scaly monster-frogs. But the dollar remains backed by the gold standard? Whatever, money is all an artificial construct as is.

Jimmy Snuka, CEO
"Muthafuckah, you had best not fuck wit my Powerpoint slides!" Orchid shows World Chem Inc in an unguarded moment. World Chem Inc, you got SERVED!

Anyhow, the writing is just plain BAD, but that’s not the worst sin of this comic, not by a long shot. No, the WORST is this comic’s ONE-IN-TEN INCENTIVE COVER. That’s right, for every ten copies

Terrible orchid
Gletkin, you got SERVED.

of this bought by comic stores, they are entitled to BUY another ONE copy with an alternate cover. The alternate cover in this case is the one I got, by Shepard Fairey. Normally, I refuse to pay a single penny extra for incentive covers because I find the practice despicable, but I liked this one’s cover by Fairey (the Obama “HOPE” / Andre the Giant “OBEY” guy) a LOT better than the ordinary cover by Massimo Carnevale.  Also, I figured, “I’m spending 80 fricking dollars on comics, what’s another couple?” But, here’s the thing: incentive covers deliberately manipulate the supply of a particular version of a comic, thereby making that version more valuable. Perhaps you’ve heard of the law of supply and demand? Well, I have two problems with this: 1) A comic is an object of art. The purist in me feels that there should be only one The Old Guitarist, or one Cloud Gate, or one Flamingo, or one The Sun.  I feel that so, too, should it be with printings of comic books.  Now, I can hear you saying,  “But John, Edward Munch did dozens of versions of The Scream, and more than one version of The Sun itself!” Well, if Edward Munch told you to jump off the top of Claes Oldenburg’s Dickmonster, would you do it? Hmm? 2) By FAR, though, the bigger problem is this: Since rarer comics cost more, incentive covers will tend to be bought by the people with the most money. Do you see the irony there? Morello and Fairey, POO ON YOU!

Part 2 – I ain’t joking, woman, I’ve got to ramble

Demon Knights #2

W: Paul Cornell

A: Diogenes Nieves, Oclair Albert, Marcelo Maiolo, Jared K. Fletcher

Rating: Is something I’ll be dispensing with for the rest of this post, ’cause I really need more sleep.

In Demon Knights, Paul Cornell has made a poor decision. I like Cornell, I wish him well, but here he earns derision. In DCU’s “New 52,” this book depicts Medieval times. But Cornell’s plan for Etrigan the demon takes away his rhymes. With continuity remade, each scribe is freed from canon’s shackle, but mere acuity of trade can make Etrigan’s comments crackle. I’ll drop it now, I’d rather not overdo Cornell’s castigation. The gag wears thin, and it begins to look like verbal masturbation.

As with Stormwatch, this series feels like Cornell is still finding his footing. Vandal Savage’s non-conformist reaction to a dragon attack is one step in the right direction, and points to what exactly feels off in both books:  Because A) they are team books and B) all of continuity is new, there is too much characterization that needs to be shoehorned in. If this was a solo book, there would be plenty of room for Cornell to flesh out the protagonist’s new backstory and such, OR if we were just using the already-established DC Universe’s continuity, he could take the characters’ histories as read. But the combination binds Cornell. One would think that being able to do whatever one wants with the players would be freeing, but we see again my contention that limiting a creator can lead to the best work. While Stan & Jack were the literal creators of Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximov, it was Peter David who truly defined him forever afterward in his ingenious exploration of Pietro’s psychological motivation in [amazon_link id="0785127453" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]X-Factor #87[/amazon_link]. Similarly, Cornell’s best work ([amazon_link id="1401230717" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]this [/amazon_link]and [amazon_link id="0785139524" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]this[/amazon_link]) has been with heroes (mostly) invented by others and perfected by Cornell’s craft. I doubt that the new “twist,” wherein both Etrigan and his unaware alter-ego Jason Blood are sexing up Madame Xanadu, will bear any lasting artistic fruit.  On the other hand, I AM amused by the possibility that the exploits of EtriXan will be covered by the Gutenberg Tabloid Press. I do still have faith that Mr. Cornell will gain strength and momentum as the series continues, but I do worry that Demon Knights may be canceled before it hits its stride. Luckily, everybody in the nation has at least bought issue #1 of every “New 52″ book, so that helps. That fact, though, makes me wish I could give the comics-buying public a lesson  about the law of supply and demand. Hey now…

Part 3 – I’m about to lose my worried mind

Morning Glories #13

W: Nick Spencer

A: Joe Eisma      Cvr: Rodin Esquejo      Clrs: Alex Sollazzo    Ltrs Johnny Lowe   Design: Tim Daniel

This comic still kicks ass. Did you know that Morning Glories kicks ass? Now you do. You DO trust me, right? Man, I’ve written like twenty thousand words at this site, if you don’t trust me by now… I guess maybe I’ve relied on the “unreliable narrator” device too much. Have you seen Jules et Jim? It was okay.

In this issue, the mystery deepens… but that explains pretty much EVERY issue of this series. I’ll repeat that Nick Spencer really needs to absolutely nail the landing on this comic, because the “It was all a dream!” twist ending would be a total kick to the dick of everything that came before it. (Reread that line. Nice, eh?)

So, lotsa weird shit again. That number 2 on the cave wall on page 27 panel 4 – mad clue or art fuckup? Could totally go either way. The bit from Psalms 18:4, “The sorrows of death compassed me,” cutting off the end, “and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” Is that significant? Got me! Heck, maybe every panel on page 29 is analogous to Psalms 18. Like, in panel three, Casey says, “WHAT’S THAT SOUND?” and Psalms 18:3 says, “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: So shall I be saved from mine enemies.” So maybe the sound she’s hearing is the 1st-person narrator of Psalms (King David, I think?) calling upon and praising the Lord? What about the fire on page 31 near the street sign saying “Rue Pitarra” – Google says there’s an apartment for rent there. Fuck, do I have to go to SPAIN to figure this shit out? Punching “Pitarra” into Wikipedia redirects you to Sacramental Wine – man, this had better not JUST be a bunch of God crap, because the Lord is totally NOT worthy to be praised. Anybody who’s read Kings II 2:23 – 2:25 knows that.

Part 4 -  Always the same, playin’ your game: Boring Cover of the Week

Unlike the week of 10/5, 10/12/11 had many worthy candidates for BCotW. Take Demon Knights – please!

Proxemics, people!
Scimitar guy is SO gonna "do it" with the back of Etrigan's head.

Everybody is just, y’know, there. Staring in a random direction, being a random size. But the staging of this cover is so relentlessly dumb that it just ISN’T boring. Is Etrigan going to bite Madame Xanadu’s head? Does Boob-Woman want to gay-marry Shining Knight? Would Vandal Savage be less angry without all of those letters on his face? Sorry, Tony Daniel and Tomeu Morey, but bad is not boring. Worser luck next time!

Go!
Okay, people, gimme angry. Grrr! That's right! Now RUN AT SOMETHING!

[amazon_link id=”B005TKW112″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]New Avengers #17[/amazon_link] had a decent shot (Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo did the cover-o.) The people just running was pretty pointless. OTOH, the image does emit a legit feeling kinetic energy, movement. Plus you have Luke cage, Wolverine, and Daredevil all going “rarrrrr!” And Spider-Man seems to be trying to shove his ankles up his ass while planning on swinging from a stop sign. So, the prize goes to…

Hmph!
I have a rifle, but I'm not happy about it!

[amazon_link id="B005TJXW0W" target="_blank" container="" container_class="" ]Alpha Flight #5 (of 8.)[/amazon_link] This is seriously the most boring cover that could possibly be made depicting a bunch of stridently marching superheroes – including hot twins, a musclebound dwarf, a hot fish-woman, and a Sasquatch – holding laser rifles. While Taskmaster looks on from Heaven and is all, like, “Hmph!” Congrats to Carlo pagulayan, Jason Paz, and Chris Sotomayor – you guys win the booby prize. It’s a damn shame, because the comic itself is super fun, the best issue of this series so far, and the best work by Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente since their Hercules heyday, with splendid interior art by Dale Eaglesham (and no credited inker.) Here, lookit this:

Eh?

The l.ook on Puck’s face is totally priceless, right?

Part 5 – Speak to me only with your eyes: Awesome cover of the week

Pink matter
The dude has balls. Have a lot of people used that joke already?

Mister Terrific #2, cover by J.G. Jones. Forget 22 pages, guy, just do one of these per month. You’re money, baby.

Okay, sleepytime, thanks for sticking around!

 

Catwoman 11 from Comic Vine

Our Underwear #7 – Parker in the front, lurker in the rear.

by John Velousis

Part 1 – How NOT to get to the point

There’s a saying that goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men can sometimes get all fucked up and out of control despite our best intentions, which pave the road to hell with idle hands.” Or something like that, I don’t really read the Bible much. Well, this last fortnight, I found out that saying is totally true!

Dig it: Two mags written by Jeff Parker were released on October 5: Thunderbolts #164 and Hulk #42. I was going to review them in my usual wacko manner, which would involve talking about some other comic book entirely, or no comic books at all, like anybody even cares anyhow, right? My REAL goal was to give Mr. Parker some kudos (or props or big ups or straight real fine azza blintz chummie, depending on your generation) for wrapping up no less than FIVE storylines in Hulk #41. My circumlocutious [scenic-route-taking] plan involved getting TO the plot-wrapping-up thing by talking about how these damn kids nowadays don’t wrap up plots enough, dammit; by way of example, I would have maybe mentioned Brian K. Vaughan’s plotting in Ex-Machina. In case you didn’t read that, what happened is that a guy (who later gets elected Mayor of New York) was given dominion over machines by extra-dimensional entities. The entities wanted they guy to prep our dimension for invasion, but he didn’t want to, even though they kept trying really hard to change his mind. Anyhow, the way Vaughan dealt with those alt-universe assholes when he ended the series is: he didn’t.

Window to the soul
Everybody likes boobs, right? Boobs, package, coupla camel-toes by Amanda Conner

My problem is that art is just too big. Think of every connection and/or comparison between artworks as a tree, okay? Well, trees have lots of branches. If nothing else, what I want to teach people is that trees have a lot of branches. So, I was going to get to Ex-Machina by finally explaining in detail why superhero comics are like Lars von Trier. If you’ve read one of my other columns mentioning this superhero/von Trier shit, you could be forgiven for assuming that I’m just saying something absurd for its own sake. That thing where I said that I once single-handedly beat the shit out of three attacking collies? Never happened. I DO believe that I could win a fight against dogs, but it hasn’t happened yet. But the Lars von Trier comparison IS A REAL THING that truly will see the light of day someday. Well, if daylight was a thing that hit computer screens. So I started writing it, the stream of ideas was supposed to flow kind of like this:
Lars-O-Mania! (Dogme 95 and The Five Obstructions) >< limitations of form/writers’ exercises & improv games (“Okay, folks! We need a profession, a locale, an accent, and a mental illness!”) >< superheroes likewise impose a limitation (talk about Nick Spencer’s device in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents {“Why did God harden the Pharaoh’s heart?”}) >< necessary maintenance of a perpetual status quo in corporate-owned properties and its effect on story lines >< Vaughan crapping the bed in Ex-Machina >< Parker!

The problem with this strategy, aside from everything about it, is that it requires an endless series of explanations about each element. One cannot just say, “You know how Lars von Trier had the whole Dogme 95thing, then he had his old film teacher remake his favorite film five different ways?” The reason is because you DON’T know (probably), so I would have to tell you! To make a long story short (AS IF!), I had written about 500 words of my Intro To Lars von Trier symposium when I realized that I should probably try a more direct approach. That’s what this is. Obviously.

I'll bone that for a dollar
Erika Moen makes a boner. Moener. Check out Bucko (by her & J.P.) today!

Part 2 – Did Jeff Parker have long hair and favor sleeveless shirts once, or did I just dream that?

Here, then, is the next stab I took at writing about Parker’s work on Hulk and Thunderbolts. It summarizes his career, except it doesn’t get to the point where he starts writing Hulk and Thunderbolts.

Parker Art Tec 806
Art by Jeff Parker from Detective Comics #806. The servant? ALFRED!

Jeff Parker’s career in comics is an odd one. Plenty of the current generation of comics writers had their beginning as writer-artists: Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, Jonathan Hickman, Jeff Lemire. Outside the mainstream (represented, as ever, by Marvel and DC), in fact, creators tend to seldom do anything BUT both, artists like Eric Powell, Jeff Smith, David Petersen, the amazing Chris Giarrusso, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and nearly all the major indie auteurs from the previous generation: Daniel Clowes, Peter Bagge, the Hernandez Brothers, Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, Jeff Nicholson, Paul Chadwick, etc.

Brubaker drazzz
From Lowlife #1 by Ed Brubaker. I own every issue of Lowlife, but I don't let it go to my head. Hey, where's his hat?

It’s a lot rarer for a comic book professional to break through as an illustrator and THEN become a writer / artist, or a full-time writer, but when these guys DO make the switch, they seem to be astoundingly good at it. I could cite the example of Tony Daniel if I wanted to make myself look like a complete asshole. The guys who actually PROVE my assertion there are people like the great Mike Mignola (Hellboy and B.P.R.D.), the brilliant Luna Brothers (Ultra, Girls, and their masterpiece to date, The Sword), and the subject of this piece: spelunking Portlander Jeff Parker.

Catwoman 11 from Comic Vine
Catwoman #11 cover by Jeff Parker

Parker’s earliest pro work, as I’ve said, was in illustration. His first listed work in the Comic Book Database was as penciler for a couple of issues of Wonder Woman in 1994 (illustrating for another former Double Threat, Bill Messner-Loebs), inked a piece in Negative Burn #13 – which also had an Alan Moore story which was penciled by Neil Gaiman (WHITRIFUK?), did artwork in many of DC imprint Paradox Press’s “Big Book of…” series – illustrating pieces about important artists such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Burt Reynolds. From 1994 to 2003, only piece of writing cited by the CBDB is a short in Negative Burn #36 entitled “Volt 2000“, which he also penciled and inked, and which was evidently good enough to earn him the right to draw that issue’s cover as well. Then came his original graphic novel, The Interman. (Rating Review Grade Score: 8 / 10 – hell, why not buy it here?)

Parker did EVERYTHING on The Interman. He wrote, penciled, inked, colored, and even LETTERED it! Would-be collaborators can go pound sand as far as The Interman is concerned. It’s a splendid 130-ish page treat of a tale about a genetically engineered man created to adapt. His intended purpose is to be a super-soldier for the military (isn’t everybody’s?), but this flies in the face of his being a pretty nice guy. Parker displays an intuitive grasp of dialogue, plotting, and character – put that shit together and you call it storytelling, kids. My favorite panel in the whole thing has the story’s best joke AND a piece of authentic Greek profanity. This dude even does RESEARCH! Or maybe he just knows a Greek person.

I don't even KNOW 'irella!
More Jeff Parker art, couldn't find the comic's name. Swamp Grundy?

Jeff Parker’s work as an idea man has some distinguishing characteristics – one of the better ones is the amount of thought he puts into through lines. By this I mean character traits, motivations… he’s good at focusing on an action and visualizing its impetus. As an artist, he gets details right. In The Interman, the titular character is made of the genetic material of hundreds of donors. As such, it’s no accident that his look is multiracial, with his predominant look naturally being Asian, as they’re the most populous people. This is a skill that Parker has brought to bear throughout his work, as in the underrated and bravura Fall of the Hulks: Alpha {which has THIS great line of dialog, from big-headed Banner-Hulk foe The Leader: “[Dr.] Doom claims to be beyond base human traits, yet he is nothing but them.”} In FotH:A, Parker shows how a secret cabal of Marvel Universe mad scientists have been influencing [heretofore-unexplained] events in Marvel history behind the scenes, plus he ties all of this together with over 20 issues of Jeph Loeb’s red Hulk comic that, I daresay, did NOT put a ton of thought into character and motivation. This isn’t to say that seeing the whole Marvel U get slapped around is of LESSER artistic merit. Hell, it isn’t like Loeb dedicated his work to glorifying something TRULY worthless, like, oh, say, Smokey and the Bandit. No, what I’m saying is that Parker took this and fleshed it out into something yet greater. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Interman brought Mr. Parker’s authoring skills some attention. From that point, he began alternating art gigs with writing work. The drawing stuff was all over the place, but the writing work’s main venue was in Marvel’s family friendly Marvel Adventures line, starting with a story in Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #4 called “Goom Got Game.” With titles like “Doom, where’s my car?” (Marvel Adv. Fantastic Four #12) and “Ego, the loving planet” (M.A. Avengers #12), and with plotlines where Spider-Man’s use of the Ultimate Nullifier caused a baseball game with Galactus, Parker’s fun and funny scripts quickly attracted a loyal internet following. Among his fiercest devotees were bloggers such as Chris Sims, the internet’s ne plus ultra of guys-who-like-seeing-face-kicks. Parker’s last illustration-only work was in late 2005′s version of Amazing Fantasy #15. From then on, he would write everything he worked on, occasionally slipping in some drawing duties as well.

President ThingBeard
'Strewth! Hulked Out Heroes #2 (W:J.P. A:Humberto Ramos,Carlos Cuevas,Edgar Delgado)

Most comic book fans are likely conversant with Parker’s career as a writer from this point onward, so I’ll just gloss over the details: In late 2006, he was given writing duties on two new titles for Marvel: X-Men First Class, and Agents of Atlas. Both continued to display a powerful antidote to the overdose of grim ‘n’ gritty that had lain on comics for some time. Atlas, in particular, seemed to be chronicling Parker’s endless wager with himself to keep reaching ever-higher peaks of superhero hijinks. Senselessly, though, it never sold well enough to avoid cancellation, despite multiple jump-starts and crossovers with every Marvel property possible. But Mr. Parker was to seize glory from the jaws of defeat: upon the demise of Atlas‘s last regular series, [TO BE CONTINUED.]

Hulk # 43 comes out this Wednesday, October 19.

KISS IT!

Our Underwear #6 – Jerry Springer love triangle (Last week in review)

By John Velousis

Part 1 – All names are changed to protect the fallen.

I used to live above a very trendy bar in Chicago, which we’ll call Fabletown. The bar owner / landlord was a legendary party rocker named Basil Chalke, formerly of the Chicago punk legends the Unusual Seizures, then the party-punk band the Grab-Asses. Anyhow, the evening I moved into the third-floor apartment, one of my new roommates – my friend Dave “the cyclone” Smith – took me out for a night of drinking and carousing. Said evening eventually got a LOT more interesting when Dave and I ended picking up two chicks and a guy at Brainiac’s Bar. The three were in town as a love triangle to appear on Jerry Springer’s show, exaggerating their problems with their 3-way romance in exchange for the free plane tickets to Chicago, plus hotel arrangements. The evening ended up getting… sexy. But that’s a story for another time.

Triangle 2
This analog pic will NEVER be put on the net unedited. Only a cad would do that!

The reason I’m bringing it up here, in a column about comic books, is because people are mostly free to do what they want to do, but they usually don’t. Yes, I COULD just stick to the ostensible point of this piece, whatever that may end up being. But if I did that, then YOU would never hear the beginning of my story about the time me and Dave picked up a Jerry Springer love triangle, took them back to our place, and so on. Where’s the fun in that?

Part 2 – LAST week in review? Why? Am I some kinda idiot or something?

By way of discussing Jeff Parker (Hulk, Thunderbolts), I started out writing, for real, precisely why superhero comics are like Lars von Trier. After WAY too much material about that, I started over just summarizing Parker’s career to date as an artist (illustrator, writer, etc.) The summary got me up to 2008, took 1009 words, and slew my ass at 3:15 AM.

So, if this column seems even more half-assed than usual, it makes a lot of sense to blame Jeff Parker for having an odd career path.

Ba!
Gabriel Ba cover for Casanova: Avaritia #2

Casanova: Avaritia II

W: Matt Fraction
A: Gabriel Ba
Col: Cris Peter
Let: Dustin K Harbin

Integer representing overall artistic value: 9 / 10

It’s hard to review Casanova for a lot of reasons, some personal having to do with obscure artistic sins that I perceive in Matt Fraction’s past, but most having to do with the subject matter itself. On the surface, the comic (in its present incarnation) seems to be a sci-fi spy hodge-podge about closing alternate realities. But Casanova is very much more than that and always has been. It’s about reading and listening to music and watching movies. It’s about sharing experiences with friends, and about the things we all know together (“the collective unconsciousness” is the term from Repo Man that comes to mind.) MUCH of it is about the creative process itself.

When a character needles another with the phrase “Billy Pilgrim’s precious little life,” that single line radiates into every direction in my skull: Billy Pilgrim is the un-stuck-in-time protagonist of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (possibly also the most autobiographical of Vonnegut’s early novels); “Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life” is the first volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s wonderful 6-volume magnum opus about life, love, and 8-bit video games. The referentialism is NOT just intended to say, “Look here, look at what I’ve read, big me!” Quite to the contrary, rather than a personal celebration of the creator, its an embrace of brotherhood. It’s Joe Strummer saying something like, “Don’t forget you’re alive. We’re all alive at the same time in history in the same moment, you know?” Joe was trying to look as hard as he could at the things that make us all the same, instead of putting our differences under the microscope. I can’t help but think that this is what Fraction is doing here too with Casanova.

The eponymous character, unfortunately, has been trapped into an abnegation of that very sentiment. Casanova Quinn is sent over and over to murder a man -Luther Desmond Diamond – who is supposed to become the world’s (or the multiverse’s?) greatest villain, but he is a man who Cass knows could and should be his brother. The series has always had a heaping helping of Nic Roeg & Donald Cammel’s Performance in it (a film which also heavily informs the recent League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1969) among its smorgasbord of references, with its willingness to blur the lines between protagonist and antagonist. In quick order, the new issue piles onto that by having various dead Luther Diamonds resemble Klaus Nomi, Elton John, Iggy Pop, and on. The LDD who is hung, one hopes, is not meant to evoke Michael Hutchence.

Eventually, Luther Desmond Diamond manifests as a comic book creator who MUCH resembles Matt Fraction himself, in a vignette that brutally dissects an artist’s feelings of self-doubt. THEN, he doubles down on self-hatred with a sequence laying bare a writer’s desperation upon finding his self stuck in a rut. Look:

Smarmy alt text
Smarmy joking caption.

But thanks to Gabriel Ba, it’s beautiful, is it not? Had Jeff Parker not already used “A life of the mind” (a quote from Barton Fink, a FILM about writer’s block) as a story title, it may very well have been the title of this chapter.

HOWEVER, having personally written dozens (maybe hundreds, hard to say) of songs,  I have to opine that the description in this issue of how the song-writer character writes a song seems… well, idiotic. But don’t despair, Mr. Fraction, the world can forgive.

Throughout this issue, and this series, the ideas flow; Fraction lays his heart bare and exposed; and the art team kills it. If you’re NOT reading this, you’re being left behind.

 

                                                                           Stormwatch #2

SW 2
Uh, sometimes less is better, okay?

W: Paul Cornell
A: Miguel Sepulveda & Al Barrionuevo
C: Alex Sinclair
L: Rob Leigh

Grade: 6 / 10 ? Maybe TBD would be better?

Paul Cornell was half of the team (along with Jimmy Broxton) responsible for 2010′s sweet-as-honey miniseries, Knight and Squire. If you loved Marvel’s The Age of the Sentry from 2008, you’d surely love K&S, and vice-versa. Cornell also wrote the much-missed Captain Britain and MI-13, peaking in storytelling skill JUST as Marvel canceled it. As such, he has a LOT of credit in my Trust-This-Artist bank. Which is good, because now he’s spending it. In this title, we’ve now had two issues of stroking, but not so much as a dribble of pre-cum. Part of the confusion comes from the cast. In the new DC universe, we have no idea as of yet who anybody TRULY is. So, while having a large cast of characters mixed together from the Wildstorm universe (the Engineer, Jenny Quantum, Apollo, Midnighter, Jack Hawksmoor), the regular DCU (the Martian Manhunter), and from god-knows-where (Adam One, the Swordsman, Projectionist) may be confusing under normal circumstances, here it’s a maelstrom of confusion. On TOP of this, Cornell has made in-team political jockeying for leadership the B-story of the piece. Absent the other elements I mentioned, that might make for a fascinating wrinkle on the genre, but as an introductory storyline, so far it just seems ill-timed. Cornell has done awesome things before, though, and recently at that, so he’s earned at least one full arc out of me.

Invincible #83

W: Robert Kirkman
A: Ryan Ottley (with a Cliff Rathburn assist)

Rahr!
"Let's kick some ass and make sure neither of us gets totally killed! WOO!"

C: John Rauch (not the tall MLB relief pitcher, who lacks an ‘h’)
L: Rus Wooton

Grade: 9 / 10

For a color comic book about superheroes that features but a single on-page death, the news of which isn’t even KNOWN to most of our characters (and they’re unlikely to care anyhow,) it’s amazing how much this issue is covered with a patina of grief. The hero of the title, Invincible, is haunted by recent events. Specifically, a supervillain with an ULTRA radical environmentalist agenda set off a bomb that killed everybody in downtown Las Vegas. Although a few issues have gone by since that event, Mark “Invincible” Grayson still carries that event on his shoulders, allowing the tragedy to inform his every action.

His friends, Robot and Monster Girl, have returned from their trip to another dimension. While eight months passed in Invinci-world, for those two, twelve YEARS passed, and THEIR torment and regret about what happened there is palpable, though we don’t know exactly what happened yet.

Finally, the on-page death that we DO see, that of one super-villain killed by another, sends the killed baddie’s best friend / possible lover into a sort of “Dark Phoenix” version of HIS powers (which I haven’t the slightest idea how to describe.) When he reasserts his will, hours have passed and HE, too, is then given over to grief. All of this is from the masterful pen of Robert Kirkman, and it is certainly no accident that this curtain of sorrow happens to follow a recent revelation of a months-past action by Invincible’s lover, Eve, that seems horribly tragic with the benefit of hindsight.

With Invincible, Kirkman has taken the soap opera stylings brought to comics with Chris Claremont’s first X-Men run, and he’s perfected the form. I am, by nature, an extremely critical person, so it’s odd for me to be passing out so many complimentary statements about so many creators. But, it just happens that we live in a time when giants walk the Earth. With this book, Kirkman proves himself a Titan among them. (Titans are bigger.)

House of Mystery #42 (of 42)

Nice cup
House is on the last drink.

W: Matt Sturges, with Bill Willingham and Steven T Seagle
A, C, L: Luca Rossi, Jose Marzan, Jr., Lee Loughridge, Todd Klein, Esao Andrews, Tony Akins, and Teddy Kristiansen.

Score: 7.5 / 10

This series was a gem. I wish I had more time to explore its mysteries, its delights and charms. An anthology with a through-line from the guys responsible for Jack of Fables – Matt Sturges and Bill Willingham – with an astonishing cast of contributors over its run (see below), HoM was a bon-bon month in and month out, with delicious cherry cordials vastly outnumbering the occasional Spring Surprise.

Contributors included Darwyn Cooke, Jill Thompson, Kyle Baker, Bernie Wrightson, Neal Adams, Gilbert Hernandez, Eric Powell, Peter Milligan, Matt Wagner, Mike Allred, Mark Buckingham, Richard Corben, Sergio Aragonés, Farel Dalrymple, Sam Kieth, John Bolton, and many, many more. It’s a shame that Sturges ran out of passion for the series, but it is the right of any artist to choose NOT to force inspiration. The series will be missed.

 

 

MASSIVE!
Seems more of a Prodigy to me.

OMAC #2

W & A: Keith Giffen and Dan DiDio

Inks: Scott Koblish
C: Hi-Fi
L: Travis Lanham

Designation: 8.5 / 10

A Jack Kirby homage, not far removed from Image Comics’ Jersey Gods – but with the advantage of being allowed to play with actual Kirby creations, this particular issue treats us to a great big King-of-comics-style slugfest for most of the issue. I would place the lion’s share of credit for the excellence herein squarely on the shoulders of the great Keith Giffen. Had he retired forever after the creation of Ambush Bug, Giffen would deserve a place in the pantheon of comics immortals for that alone. But he did not, and now we have this to show for it. I’ll leave it for Mr. Giffen to give the final words of this section. Let’s pretend this is his answer to the question, “What actually happened to Ambush Bug Year None #6?”

KISS IT!
KISS my giant concrete ASS!

Part 3 – Weekly honors!

Boring cover of the week

It was actually a pretty damned good week for comic book covers, but Tony Daniel worked his magic and created the most boring image possible of Batman flying the Batplane. Kudos, Mr. Daniel – or should I say, POO-dos?

Boring #2
Totally SMOKED his ass!

Comic of the week

Tie: Casanova #2 and / or Invincible #83 (both reviewed on this very page!)

And now, ’til we meet again, adios, au revoir, and auf wiedersehen.

His balls! Zap his balls!

Our Underwear #5 – Money is a false god that I will stab a hundred times in the face.

Part 1 – Gimme some Action!

His balls! Zap his balls!
I've had worse.

Action Comics #2
W: Grant Morrison
A: Rags Morales
Grade: 8 / 10

When I read Action Comics #1, I thought, “Huh. [This obscure writer, whoever the hell he is,] is going back to Superman’s roots. Sweet move.” Then, I sat back and looked for bloggers and maybe even newspaper writers to point this out also. I’m not sure if I did this thing symbolically or literally – honestly, I could have put more thought into this whole paragraph, but shit, it’s not like I’m getting paid for it, knowwhatI’msayin? Anyway, I was surprised more than a bit to see nobody mention this, considering that reviewers seem to LOVE talking about characters or artists going back to their roots.

Action Comics  #2 came out this last Wednesday, and its backup feature had loads of materiel from Messrs. Morrison and Morales (and seeming Artist-to-be Gene Ha – which, BTW, yay!) talking about, yep, taking Supes Back To His Roots (hereafter abbreviated as BTHR.) Take it away, Laurie Anderson: “And I said, ‘Oh boy. Right. Again.‘”

Roots!
See? I was right. I called it. Told you so!

The thing is, taking Superman BTHR makes a crazy ton of sense.  Why? Because the Man of Steel’s roots, as crafted by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster during the ass-end of the Great Depression, depicted a character who often, if not usually, used his personal power to beset abusers of institutional or collective power. The Man of Tomorrow took the fight to the Haves who gained their perch by stepping on the heads of many of the Have-nots. In other words, he fucked with rich people’s shit.

Rats with MONEY.
My favorite holiday is Bastille Day. I bet you won't look it up.

The decision to take Ma & Pa Kent’s boy in this direction is simultaneously somehow an obvious move and a maverick one. Obvious because the disparity between the rich and everybody else (probably everywhere, but for sure in the US of A) is greater than ever – so much so that it would be a meme if eternal things like “The sky is above us” or “The sun rises in the East” or “This Democratic President is disappointingly conservative” could be memes. Maverick because everybody else in the damn world has a depressing tendency to REMOVE socio-economic subtext from their re-imaginings of previous works. For example, the 1975 Norman Jewison film Rollerball, which is set in a future where the world is run by a dictatorship of corporations, was remade in 2002 and set in the present, with corporate dictatorship no longer a major theme. If you weren’t aware, corporations have NOT become less powerful since 1975. Hell, they remade Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1976) and took out the system of points-gained for running over pedestrians! IS NOTHING SACRED? May as well remake Raging Bull (you should already know who directed this one) and make Jake LaMotta become a fitness nut as he ages.

Of course, writer Grant Morrison probably makes a strong case for the Blue Ribbon  – ESPECIALLY among writers working for the Big Two – when it comes to authors who place artistic concerns ahead of financial ones. This is not meant to insinuate that other excellent writers working for DC and Marvel – such as Paul Cornell, Ed Brubaker, Jeffs Lemire and Parker, and many more – are only in it for the money, or that they don’t give everything they have, artistically speaking, to their work. I’m meaning rather to point out that Morrison, by dint of his tenure and sales record in the industry, is nearly unique in his ability to not only bite the hand that feeds him if he so chooses, but also get the X-ray of that bite published. (As an aside, I must apologize en masse to the entire rest of the comics industry who are NOT writers, particularly the pencilers, inkers, colorists, and letterers, whose artistic contributions will probably ALWAYS be under-appreciated in my essays. I do have a tendency, fair or not, to view the writer as the dominant creator of any given comic book. Part of this is cross-contamination from my interest in film and my tendency towards auteur theory, and some of the pro-writer snobbery is surely because I’m a writer and not an illustrator. Anyhow, everybody but writers: sorry!) There are only two or so other writers who can get away with what G-Mo could, but they won’t work for Marvel or DC. Their last names might also begin with the letter ‘M’. (In my dreams, there will come a day when non-comic-book-fans read this because it is MY writing. For those non-existent people, I’m referring to the V For Vendetta / Watchmen guy and the Sin City / 300 guy, those being their best film adaptations and their Zack Snyder movies.)

So. Action Comics #1 ends with Superman knocked out by a runaway subway train, in a bit that actually repurposes the ending of the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor action comedy Silver Streak (D: Arthur Hiller, 1976 – plus many other collaborators, but fuck ‘em, right?) Issue 2 begins with Kal-El a captive of the military (or perhaps more aptly, the military-industrial complex,) getting a shit-ton of torture dropped on him by an industrialist named Lex Luthor. I’d guess this obscure figure is going to play some sort of an ongoing role in the Superman mythos – probably as his best friend or something, unless I miss my guess. The issue title is “In chains,” which is actually reassuring – because we ALL know what Superman does to chains. Morrison knows we know this. It’s been an ongoing theme of Grant Morrison’s, all the way back to his DC debut on Animal Man, to assert that everything that’s ever happened to a character is STILL part of his continuity. This is even true of a character like Animal Man who’d had VASTLY divergent origin stories told about him. Morrison carried it through even to his theoretically-outside-DC-continuity series All-Star Superman (with artist Frank Quitely, inked & colored by Jamie Grant,) where he remained faithful to Superman ideas he had seeded eight years before in the 1998 comic book event “DC One Million.” And he has carried that idea, most vocally, through his amazing run on Batman. In his various Batman titles, Grant Who Never Can’t somehow tied together SEVENTY YEARS worth of retellings of Batman’s origins in the audacious and astonishing The Return of Bruce Wayne series (Rating: 10/10 – holy shit!) – and ALSO referred to “DC One Million!” The balls on this guy! Hell, I can’t even keep continuity straight from the beginning of this fucking paragraph. What I’m getting at, though, is that the man knows his connections, historic, synaptic, and you-name-ic. He has a sense of our collective memory of this, the most important super-hero. No, it’s not Wolverine.

So, Krypton’s last son is getting a-zapped and a-gassed, banged and sassed, slapped in the ass and given a suspended bus pass. Luthor is comically paranoid (he learned his manners from the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers (D: Don Siegel, 1956) about the alien he’s “studying.” Elsewhere, Lois Lane is trying to bum-rush the event by name-dropping her Four-Star-General dad, who works equally hard to stonewall her. Meanwhile, unsexy Lexie is being drawn inconsistently (Christ, Rags, people are paying attention!) and making the bizarrely terrible assumption that Kal-El is the REAL shape-shifter here. As his proof, Lex presents The Man Who Also Be Clark with what looks to be the corpse of a six-legged Krypto, which we infer was found in the rocket that brought Moses Superman to our world. Actually, knowing how G.Mo’s encyclopedic hard-drive runs, the critter is probably straight from some silver-age story called “The Dog That Lois Lane Married!” Speaking of, she does a full page of Exposition And Nothing But with an ex-boyfriend who is going to become Metal-[SPOILER!]-lo, then it’s back to the star as he busts them chains and makes Lex Luthor look like a total pussy. He kicks down vault-doors, finds he cape, and stumbles across the rocket that brought him here for what seems to be his first time seeing it.

Shipping
Must... draw... like... basket. No... time... for... faces...

He ditches it, busts his way around, and runs into Lois Lane, who on one single page has a meltdown where she can’t decide if she’s Mercedes Ruehl, Fran Drescher, or Nora Dunn (RAGS!) One page of exposition with Future-Metallo [previous word is a spoiler, caution!] and the last page has Lex having a conversation with a spacecraft that never in a million years could turn out to be Brainiac.

So, an action-filled issue that’s mostly set-up and actually doesn’t have jack shit to do with my thesis about the anti-capitalist Superman, until we reach the extra background stuff after the main story. Here we find the perils of not-getting-asked-to-blog-soon-enough. I should’ve probably written this after issue #1. Eh, what can ya do?

Part 2 – Fresh Flesh / Disconnected / No More Nothing
Here’s my pull list for next week: Alpha Flight, Amazing Spider-Man, Baltimore-The Cursed Balls, Batwoman, CBLDF Liberty Annual 2011, Demon Knights, Farts Itself-Hulk v Dracula, FF, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., Irredeemable, Morning Glories, Mr. Terrific, New Avengers, Orchid (here’s hoping Tom Morello is half the comics talent that Gerard Way turned out to be), Resurrection Man, S.H.I.E.L.D. (pain in the ass to type. Pedantic note – is alphabetized before the other ‘S’ comics, just like B.P.R.D. leads off the ‘B’s), Ultimate X-Men (I feel kind of bad slagging Nick Spencer’s Iron Man 2.0 work so hard, but to be fair, it IS a piece of shit), Uncanny X-Force, Unexpected, Unwritten, and X-Men: Regenesis. That’s about seventy-five bucks of comics right there, AFTER culling Legion Lost and Greg Rucka’s enormously disappointing return to the two-publisher-system, The Punisher. Some of these are on the cusp, and some are one-offs, but that’s still a LOT of scratch.

Now, the economy is crap right now. I haven’t had a raise in something like five years. I have a mortgage to pay (those are the words that Ed McBain called “The yuppie Nuremburg Defense.”) The entire frickin’ WORLD has to pretend that the USA is someday going to pay off its IOUs somehow, because otherwise everybody everywhere will fall straight through the rainbow of their imaginary money and splatter into soup a mile down. WHY THE HELL would Marvel and DC decide that NOW is the time to increase the number of titles they’re putting out per month? Okay, yeah, everybody else is scrambling and clawing desperately to hold onto the scraps that they still have in their yards, why should comics publishers be any different? Still, I managed to take a 13-year break in my comics-buying before, and I AM pretty damned fond of eating regular meals. Publishers: Pay some goddamn attention to which way the wind is blowing.

Boobs.
My wife claims she sees boobs on this.

Part 3 – Beef Baloney

Spider-Island – The Avengers #1 (of 1)

Writer: Chris Yost
Artist: Mike McKone
Color Art: Jeromy Cox
Only Letterer Employed By Marvel: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Review Score 8.5/10

I’m glad I haven’t recently suggested that Marvel and DC should be making fewer comics, because having random blasts of fun like this one drop on my head from out of nowhere is what makes reading comic books such a pleasure. While the Marvel Comics-Events-Up-The-Ass Blitz has tied the Avengers, the New Avengers, and the Secret Avengers to Fear Itself, and will likely lead to X-Men: Schism: The Avengers: Sub-Schism, this here little shamma-lamma is just goofy as all get out and almost makes all that other self-serious crap worthwhile. Beyond that, this little floppy has the most inventive use of captions as a comedy device that I may have EVER seen in a comic. AND, its characters don’t look like their heads are shape-shifting every flippin’ panel. Memo to Mike McKone: Rags Morales’ riches are rightfully yours.

Yay!
Yay!
No time for alt text!

Our Underwear #4 – Didn’t you read #1 where I said why it wasn’t my fault?

by John Velousis

Reviews! Lots of reviews! Almost no attacks of readers at all! Considerably less profanity! THIS is the column where I assure potential future employers that John Velousis understands where satire ends and indecency begins! John Velousis di’nt mean to hurt you, baby, come on and let John Velousis throw his love at meanness itself. Poor business practices had best be on alert – there’s a new sheriff on-site, and his name is hidden cleverly in this very paragraph!

SO! I have many reviews I’d like to load, if that’s the word, but I ALSO have a selfish desire to sleep before I work tomorrow. Hence, I’ll be mentioning creative teams only if I feel like it, and I won’t feel like it much. Also, images are kind of a pain in the ole patoot to shove into this special area, so I’ll be skimping on those or senselessly using ones I already have lying around. Grades are OVERALL, on a 1-to-10 scale. Are you ready for some footsballs?

No time for alt text!
NON-boring cover by Dave Johnson

 

Abe Sapien: The Devil Does Not Jest #1 (of 2)

Grade: 8

The Mignolaverse of BPRD and Hellboy has been taking some serious jackhammers to the nuts lately (as opposed to funny ones… hmm. In fact, all jackhammers to the balls are both funny and serious.) Well, this series doesn’t clear up any dangling plot-sacks, it’s a tale of the BPRD salad days of 1985. Abe goes somewhere to investigate something, and wouldn’t you know it? Things go south. I guess they won’t be making any miniseries where Abe has a relaxing vacation. If you like your Abby the fish-man seasoned with a tablespoon of whup-ass, this issue will bring the yummy to your tummy. Every few years, Mike Mignola and his cronies (here co-writer John Arcudi, artist James Harren, THE colorist Dave Stewart – sweet dreams are made of his colors! – and letterer Clem Robins) remind the readership that Abraham Sapien can throw down and make it stay down. Then, five years later, they drop some huge callback on you letting you know WHY it all happened. Oh, how they do build their world, that they may have more world to bust up.


Yo!
Tyr's unimpressed by Loki's fanny. Art by Stephanie Hans.

 

Journey into Mystery #628

Grade: 8  (I’m embarrassed. I repeated grade 8.)

Kieron Gillen’s account of the mammoth plot of Li’l Loki (who’s a good-guy now, probably) to save his brother Thor and the world too – multitaskers gonna multitask – has been a hoot from the start.  Every chapter has added another fun piece to Loki’s skyscraper-sized Jenga of a plan. With this issue, the plan starts coming together. Well now, I reckon your enjoyment of this hyar comicky-book depends on jest how much y’luvvit when thet happens. (That’s me writing all Asgard-ey. Pretty good, huh?) I’m a-gonna pend final judgment, though, until I see how hard together the plan comes. If you haven’t been reading this delightful bundle of fundle, you should buy the trade of it if you find some money.

 




Brilliant #1

Grade: 7

B. M. Bendis and Bagley do creator-owned. Genius college kids invent superpowers. Will they use them for good? Well, no, but who gives a fig? [Warning: That was a spoiler, I think. I am uneasy with you kids' "hep" jargon.] Fun enuff debut, but the color palette by Nick Filardi was a bit drab for my TV-baby needs, and I wasn’t kookoo about Bagley’s art either. Conversely, Bendis’s prose is not too prolix for a change. Hard to say how good it’ll be; it’s better than The Rise of Arsenal and worse than All-Star Superman. Ooh, that should be a blurb! “[Comparable to] All-Star Superman.”

Holla, Bob.
S'more!

 

DeadpoolMax #12

Grade: 8.5

David Lapham and Kyle Baker’s cuddly and family-friendly Volume 1 ends on a high note. Not for Wade and his “handler” HydraBob and Wade’s, uh, mom / lover Iris – who’s also Taskmaster (Taskmastress?) and I think maybe Moon Knight too? Those three are pretty screwed, actually – but at least they have each other! Hoo-rah for friendship!

 

FF #9

Grade: 7.5

If this is the resolution to the whole War of Four Cities and Four to the Floor for Four Reeds and Bad Guys Come Around To Plan A Plan That Seems Pretty Super-Un-Genius storylines, it seems a bit rushed. Kind of like this review, so who am I to Judge? Has a killer one-liner from Spider-Man, though. And I always love Wizard Jr. Aw, golly to the hey, I’ll bump the grade up. I think it’s not the resolution anyhow. Gawd, I have no idea what I’m doing. Look away, I’m hideous!

Fear Itself: The Deep #4 (of 4)

Grade: 3.5

In an astonishing development, Namor conquers his sissification. Super-Attuma (EET’S NOT ATTUMAH!) takes a licking, then shakes it off to run away and join upper management, not wishing to be disposed of in a spin-off like some dork. I learned no lessons, but the ride was boring too. I should have used the money to buy two of those high-end frozen pizzas.

Up and I'm down, lost and I'm found, I'm on the hunt I'm after you...
Not reviewed anywhere here, but this was a pretty boring cover too.

Fear Itself: Hulk v Dracula, Esq. #2 (of 3)

Grade: 5

Is there some place in Marvel continuity – like, maybe in the series X-Men: Not-Funny Diarrhea Vampires – where they say why Dracula didn’t die in Captain Britain: Vampire State (Grade: 9.5/10!)? Is it explained that to live again, Drac had to forsake his iconic Gene Colan look – ESPECIALLY the John Waters  ‘stache – in favor of the totally S-E-X-X-Y “Old man with a gray pony tail” look? oh, and with pointy shoulder pads? just wondering. Anyhow, ’80s-midlife-crisis-Dracula sends the kitchen sink of monster zoos at line-glow cornrow Hammer-Hulk, who smashes ‘em all real hard – wendigos, saurons, chrome-lined dragons, sort-of-idealized-versions-of-complete-Renaissance-men – all megaspankificated by big green’s new finishing move, which I’ve dubbed “hitting,” except for one guy who the Hulk blows. It’s not as fun as I’m making it sound.

Justice League Dark #1

Grade: 7

They only assemble after Labor day! Black Lightning, Mr. Terrific, Vixen, Obsidian, the right half of Eclipso’s body, Green Lantern John Stewart, Biz Markie, Tattooed Man, I have no plan how to tie up this sentence, nor will I. This was pretty decent, and the Ryan Sook cover is totally The Goods, but I feel like there’s about 75 issues of backstory that I’m missing. I probably block off my oxygen supply too much, I bet is why. So, in this series, the magic-users of the DCU – The Phantom Doug Henninger, Siegfried & Roy & Wondertigerdog, John David Copperfieldstantine, Penntana and Teller the Gesturing Man – - – - ah, sorry, Peter Milligan, I should go to bed.

This column is over – scram!

This is technique

Our Underwear #3 – Boring Cover of the Week begins!

By John Velousis

On the Utility of Hatchets, or, Hall of Flame, or, I Bought It / I Break It, or, I Hurt Because I Love, or, My Wife Suggests I Use My Pseudonym

Part 1 – The Gathering Form

Before I start being mean about artists, I want to paraphrase a lovely musical question by The Pagans: What’s this shit called comic books? They’re these things with words and pictures that tell stories, sez I. People buy and sell them, yeah, but that is NOT what defines them. If some misguided narc of a mom throws out their kid’s comics and those get trash-picked by some other kid, clan of hobos, eagle-eyed hipster, whatever… no buying or selling there, see? But they’re still comics. Now, okay, maybe some comics by Jim Woodring or Jason don’t have words, and maybe some comics by Art Spiegelman or Dino Buzzati don’t tell stories as we ignorant masses understand them, but I’m blowing off such exceptions. That stuff’s outside the purview of my column, which is about superhero comics. Say, did you know that? Yeah, that’s what the column title is about, kind of. It has a few meanings, actually. Ponder that if you will, Sally-Bill, it don’t make no nohow to me any old way.

A standard to reach for
Tantalizing Stories #1 by Jim Woodring

Part 2 – Hoo Boy

Now I gotta get mushy for a paragraph, because I’m going to open up about comic books’ connection to my heart. I love comics. I think they constitute a fantastic artistic medium. I believe what the great Jack Kirby said: “You can do anything with words and pictures.” I believe it all the way. Comics, for me, are not a guilty pleasure – they’re a pleasure. Not when they suck, obviously, but I’m making sure I state here, in no uncertain terms, that this art form is not some kind of “low art” as opposed to just-plain-books, say. If you think that From Hell is inferior to The DaVinci Code because society has given the thumbs-up for THAT flavor of snobbery, then you can go shove a floy floy up your rusty dusty. For real, go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut, if you believe THAT wack shit. Hell, while I’m working up a nice froth, I ain’t no fucking GEEK either. I have EARNED the respect of the most jaded human beings on Earth – Chicago rock-and-roll musicians. What the fuck have YOU ever done, you theoretical pin-dicked straw man mutherfucker?

This is an idea
Animal Man #5 by Brian Bolland

Part 3 – Pretty rainbows! Unicorns! Yayyyyyy!

Hey now! I’ve taken some chill pills – it’s all aboveboard, I have a legal prescription. About time for me to get to the point, wouldn’t you say? Okay, here goes: Marvel Comics has had some really boring comic book covers lately – like, for the last two years at LEAST. I have seen it said that this is a matter of policy at Marvel Worldwide, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, LLC. What boring, you may say, boring how, define my terms! I mean covers that say NOTHING NEW – that may, in fact convey as little information as possible while still actually having images. This offends my sensibilities. Why? What’s it to me? Well, a boring comic book cover is an inferior work of art. It is the work of an artist betraying his or her own talent, or being made to betray their talent. This is repugnant to me. An artist’s delight is to speak to the human soul. Yet at the House of ideas, artists have been doing WAY too much tapping the mic and saying, “Testing… testing…” over and over. These artists are being abased by their own hand, the instruments to their own humiliation.

This is technique
Amazing Spider-Man #655 by Marcos Martin

Part 4 – How do I know it’s a murder? Here’s the body. (It turns out I killed the Word-Count Fairy.)

Issue#9 of Iron Man 2.0 came out last Wednesday. The writer, Nick Spencer, is a fascinating new-ish talent. His series Morning Glories at Image is a consistently surprising mind-fuck, flecked with little bitty-bits of delight in nearly every marginal detail. It’s already a success by my lights whether or not he manages the seemingly impossible task of tying its psychotic world together. Also from Image, Infinite Vacation seems pretty fantastic – and its artist, Christian Ward, has the balls to insist that perfection simply cannot be rushed… meaning that it doesn’t come out super-often, but that’s another column.

Over at DC, Spencer’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is fresher than a blood-red tomato plucked off the vine and juicing into your mouth. From issue#3, here’s a picture that paints a thousand wails of torment and regret:

This is emotion
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #3 p.3 pan.1- Cafu, Bit, & Santiago Arcas

I’m not sure where this book falls in place with DC’s current shenanigans, but it’d be sad as shit if it were done.

And his story, Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week simply cupped my balls with vibrations of astonished delight. Really, truly, if you think I have ever said ANYTHING of value, believe me that you have GOT to get that Jimmy Olsen special. If you never read it, you simply won’t be as good at ANYTHING as everyone else – making pizza, fucking, sudoku. If I don’t see an explosion of Jimmy Olsen’s Big Week sales tomorrow that can be counted in integers, well, that’ll just be sad, I suppose.

Spencer’s Marvel output has been… less consistent. His Cloak & Dagger is better than anybody could have expected so far, and though I’ve not read it, fans are really slobbing his knob over Ultimate X-Men#1. BUT… his run on Secret Avengers wasn’t very good. Actually, I thought it was bad. And this gets us back to Iron Man 2.0

Iron Man 2.0 (I’m now done with the bold text for this dog) had a few things going against it from the get-go. First, there’s the NAME. One can understand why “War Machine” isn’t such a good name for a hero, but “Iron Man 2.0″? A little bit patronizing, isn’t it? The minds that came up with that – I DOUBT it was Spencer – are the same kind of minds that would’ve just called him “Black Iron Man” in the 1970s. I put about 2 seconds’ thought into it and thought of “Peacekeeper.” It’s politically correct, but is the name of a weapon. Bada-bing, bada-boom. I’m sure anybody could’ve come up with a better name just as easily… except there was this film franchise, you see, and money to be made…

The series itself started out reasonably promisingly – not as well as ANY of Spencer’s other projects, but compelling enough to continue reading. Issue 1, there’s a lovely technicolor fight involving Iron Man the First, War Machine, and an android duplicate of Blizzard, the supervillain who’s for dessert! Then some plot exposition and an odd last-page mystery reveal. Issue 2… not as interesting, but still the mystery deepens and our guy gets red-herringed into, aw snap, a nuke dropping on him. Issue 3 dials it back yet more, the bulk taken, first, by MANY silent panels of people worried about James “Rhodey” “War Machine” “Iron Man 2.0 Real Soon” Rhodes and his gay li’l been-nuked problem, then by him and Stark fetishizing a bunch of tech like Marion Cobretti polishing his steel barrel. They end up giving the new armor John Lynch’s left eye. These 3 issues all have art by some three-way combo of Barry kitson, Kano, and Carmine Di Giandomenico.

Yup, there he is.
IM 2.0 #1
A choo-choo's coming!
IM 2.0 #3 - Pretend these are all alligned, okay? Thanks!
Rubble. Wow.
IM 2.0 #2

Issue 4… is dire. It reads like filler. The inner illustrations are rife with splash pages that have no reason to exist at all. This guy with the first name that defines a real man tells is just like it is. The art tricycle has been replaced by Ariel Olivetti, who has a thankless task and earns some anti-thanks. I mean, yeah, “Double page spread: alienated kid alone on a school bleacher” doesn’t torch inspiration into ANYBODY’s head, but his rendering is devoid of ANY element of technique that could possibly create an effect – no internal framing, no creepy shading, no skewed perspective indicating psychosis – A STICK FIGURE would have had more dramatic effect than this blue-sky-sunny-day exercise in making two pages be filled. Whoa! Grass looks cloudy there – SPOOKY! Christ, TILT the fucking thing! The absolutely most disturbing thing about this picture is that it’s confusing WHY it’s so lame!

ZOMG, nobody GETS my EMOTIONALISM.
Some pair of fuckin' pages from Iron Man 2.0#4

Ahem. The issue seems like Spencer was told, “Kill time until Fear Itself.” Then, issues 5-7 are Fear itself crossover wankery. In #5, both Iron Man II and Iron Fist say the lines “I’ve seen my share of bad times[…] but THIS– THIS might be the worst I’ve ever seen.” Okay, I simply cannot continue this blow by blow of a comic book losing its sense of purpose more with every issue. Let me just jump to my guess WHY.

Wha-?! Something is HAPPENING on a cover? Fire the copy editor!
IM 2.0 #6
I'll pretend that can is Iron Man and my pistol has a scope. VROOM!
IM 2.0 #4

Iron Machine is so nice - he always faces me when I talk!

IM 2.0 #5

I am about to do a shitty, shitty thing. People do this thing all the time without understanding how lousy it is. It’s a low blow, this thing. If I am wrong, I’ll have done a vile thing. I am going to accuse a creator of cashing a check. A BUNCH of creators. Everybody named so far. I have to believe that all of these guys took the assignment WANTING to make something great, BUT Marvel had these things they needed done, and those things beget worse things, and the artists saw the way the wind blew. And they saw that it blew. And they said, “fuck it.” And it was bad. That’s the only explanation I can glean for the depressing dearth of inspiration on display. And oh my god what about the covers?

One punch really IS thrown in this issue.
IM 2.0 #8
See the yellow near the bar code? All the flame behind him's shooting out his ass.
IM 2.0 #7 -Olivetti

 

One time at band camp I shoved Tony and my ghost up my ass.
IM 2.0 #7.1 WTF? ROTFLMAOBOWBH!

Salvador Larroca is credited on art for all of the covers, with Frank D’Armata given co-credit from issue 2 onward. Ariel Olivetti was omitted from credit as the actual cover artist for #7, and Marvel regretted that error. Look at those damned things. Can you imagine being 10 years old and trying to remember your favorite issue of Iron Man Junior (not likely, sure – this is purely a mental exercise,) and trying to recall its cover – which one of these generic 3/4 figure shots with Assistant Iron Man facing you was IT? Now, I’m quite fond of Salvador Larroca’s work on the interiors of Invincible Iron Man, but why the Hell didn’t he put any actual God damned IDEAS in any of these? Go back and look at that Spider-Man cover. Yeah, it’s unfair to compare ANYBODY to Marcos Martin, but shit, man, you are allowed to THINK about the cover before you start drawing it, aren’t you? These covers do not say ANYTHING. Why not draw one where he scratches his nuts? That would be new! Do some fucking thing I’ll remember! So. Iron Man 2.0 #9 is the winner of our first Boring Cover of the Week.

Can I see your license and registration please?
Iron Man 2.0 #8 by Larroca and D'Armata

But this series is the Albert Pujols of Bad Covers. So, since the rules are mine, I’m also electing the entire series to the Bad Cover Hall of Fame.

One should not aspire to be a drawer. One should aspire to be an artist.