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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.”


Last Minute Christmas Guide for the Procastinationally Inclined

This is it.  Seven days to Christmas (or X number of days until the preferred Winter Holiday of your choosing).  Ten days left to impress those we love with our generosity and implicit knowledge of everything they love and desire.

Challenge Accepted.

Here’s the Chicago Comic Vault’s List of Something For Everyone, so long as “everyone” means “people who would enjoy receiving comics as presents” which really should be “everyone” but we live in an unjust world.


Bad Ideas and Big Doings

This is the book with something for everyone.  Collecting all of Bill Willingham’s non-Fables DC stories, Bad Ideas and Big Doings is a delicious blend of madcap humor, high stakes poker games, and crafty witches-for-hire.  Plus, the book itself is printed beautifully with over 500 pages full of story and none of the filler.

[amazon_link id=”1401232450″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Bad Doings and Big Ideas: A Bill Willingham Deluxe Edition (Bad Doings & Big Ideas)[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the Fables fanatic who needs something to read between trades, the Sandman fan wanting to see some familiar faces, or a short-story lover who can appreciate prose and pretty pictures.

Gateway Book to: Fables, Sandman, Vertigo, independent books.  This book has the ability to hook new comics fans, bring back old ones, and delight long-time fans.  It might also be able to cure cancer and tap dance better than Ginger Rogers.



This collection of Greg Rucka’s pitch-perfect small town noir miniseries set in Oregon’s Hipster Mecca is definitely one of the jewels in Oni Press’ ever-expanding crown.  Weird metaphors aside, Stumptown is an amazing book with a hardcover that take a pretty considerable beating and printed out on paper with just the right amount of weight.  Rucka paints the perfect picture of Portland, following private investigator Dex as she attempts to clear her considerable gambling debts by tracking the grand-daughter of the head of the Wind Coast casino.  In true noir fashion, things of course go terribly awry and no one is who they seem to be.

[amazon_link id=”1934964379″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Stumptown Volume 1 HC[/amazon_link]  [amazon_link id=”B0039XOGPA” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]STUMPTOWN #2[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the indie book lover wanting to start comics without touching Big Two Continuity, or for the Big Two Lover looking for a nice pallet cleanser between Bat-books and the latest Avengers title.

Gateway Book to: other noir-comics like Brubaker’s Incognito or interesting female-led titles like Bendis’ Scarlet, not to mention it’s the perfect primer for Rucka’s “Queen and Country” collection.

Batgirl: Batgirl Rising

Bryan Q. Miller’s fantastic run on Batgirl is easily one of the brighter moments for the past two years of DC story-telling.  Stephanie Brown’s stories as Batgirl were fun and essentially free of heavy continuity, two things that are legitimately hard to find when the Bat-verse itself is usually occupied with its own backstory set in its usual GRIMDARK tone.  Steph countered big baddies like the Scarecrow with a utility belt full of inventive Batarangs and a positive attitude.  Plus, the series served as an excellent hurrah to Barbara Gordon’s time as Oracle, who served as Steph’s mentor, who imparted bits of crime-fighting wisdom with snark and waffles.

[amazon_link id=”1401227236″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Batgirl Vol. 1: Batgirl Rising[/amazon_link] [amazon_link id=”140123142X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Batgirl: The Flood (Batgirl (DC Comics))[/amazon_link] [amazon_link id=”1401232701″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Batgirl Vol. 3: The Lesson[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the lady who would love comics if not for all the sexualized imagery, or for the Big Two fan who needs something fun and light to read over the holidays.

Gateway Book to: any other Batgirl title, and with three having shared the title, there’s plenty to choose from!  Plus, with Batgirl being a flagship title, and with both Stephanie and Cassandra Cain appearing in Grant Morrison’s Batman, Leviathan, fans will have plenty of new material to look forward to as well.

Hark! A Vagrant

Obscure historical figures have never been so hilarious.  Or rather, they were never very hilarious and somehow Kate Beaton has managed to tell their stories in the most brilliant way possible.  Read about the exploits of Nancy Drew and Napoleon, and have a laugh at the expense of Nikola Tesla, Jane Austen, and Lord Byron.

[amazon_link id=”1770460608″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Hark! A Vagrant[/amazon_link] [amazon_link id=”B00442P8J8″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Never Learn Anything From History, A Collection of Comics[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the history geek who can laugh at themselves, the Austen addict, science nerds, and anyone who can appreciate a light style and sharp humor.

Gateway Book to: hours and hours of Wikipedia searching actually learning stuff about things.

Morning Glories Hardcover

Morning Glories is easily the breakout indie hit of the last year, with its measure of equal parts LOST and everything terrible you remember about high school.  Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma have worked together to create a book that captures the essence of high school without being too Gossip Girl and projects a sense of mystery and danger without being too melodramatic.  While a printing error means the Deluxe Edition might not be able for Christmas, it’s worth reserving a copy for at your local LCS, or if you need to get your Glories fix right away, two trades are available from Image collecting the first twelve issues of the critically acclaimed series.

[amazon_link id=”1607064308″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Morning Glories Volume 1 HC[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the hopeless and helpless fans of everything from LOST to Gossip Girl, the indie book fan, the conspiracy fanatic, and the all around comic fan.

Gateway Book to: the full range of Image titles.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger

Sometimes a book, no matter how good it might be, can’t quite float the numbers and gets the axe.  Such was the case for Thor: TMA, which featured fun stories from Robert Langrige and clean, engaging art from Chris Samnee.  Thor and his hammer fought their way through giant robots, crazy sea monsters, and even had a little time for romance in this series that made it to eight fantastic issues.

[amazon_link id=”0785141219″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Vol. 1: The God Who Fell to Earth[/amazon_link] [amazon_link id=”0785141227″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Vol. 2[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the young comic fans, this book was perfect for first-time comic readers of all ages.

Gateway Book to: the rest of the Thor series, particularly J. Michael Straczynski’s run as well as some classics like Avengers: Disassembled and some of the more recent Avengers titles.

Batman: Black Mirror

If you haven’t read Scott Snyder’s amazing Detective Comics run, then you need to seriously reconsider your life choices.  Or, you can buy the first trade collecting Detective Comics #871-881 with stunning art by Jock and Francesco Francavilla.  Easily some of the best Batman stories of the decade, the Black Mirror trade follows Dick Grayson through his tenure as Batman, as Dick uncovers the deadly House or Mirrors and takes on the darkest side of organized crime that Gotham’s ever seen, all while trying to reconcile his identity as Batman and his place in Gotham City.

[amazon_link id=”140123206X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Batman: The Black Mirror[/amazon_link]

Get it for:  Anyone who’s ever muttered a word about liking Batman in their entire lives.

Gateway Book to: Snyder’s DCnU Batman series, as well as Nightwing, Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Batwing, and Batman: Leviathan for starters.

Batwoman: Elegy

Speaking of greatest Batman stories, Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III just happened to write the single best non-Batman Batman story in recent history.  Kate Kane, tattooed, Jewish, and proud lesbian, took on the Bat-mantle after being don’t-ask-don’t-tell’ed out of West Point.  As Batwoman, Kate takes on a new set of Gotham’s criminal elite, this time being controlled by a porcelain-white Carrolian goth girl. Also, have I mentioned how incredible Williams’ art and layouts are?  Because they’re amazing.

[amazon_link id=”1401231462″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Batwoman: Elegy[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the fanboy who has his Bat-blinders on, the girl who owns more Batman t-shirts than comics, the queer comic fan looking for some badass representation in mainstream comics, and any lady comic fan who hasn’t discovered the wonder that is Kate Kane.

Gateway Book to:  Kane’s latest DCnU book featuring the same amazing art by J.H. Williams III, other DCnU Bat-titles like Batman, Batwing, and Batgirl.


This book is very cool.  Matt Fraction writes a spy thriller that appeals to fans across genres because well, this book just refuses to hang out in a single one.  Casanova Quinn does pretty much everything to get out of doing anything after his super-spy brother is killed in action working under his father’s E.M.P.I.R.E organization.  So in order to avoid responsibility and a mess of gambling debt, Casanova jumps out of a floating casino and ends up in an alternate timeline.  The series is non-stop, zany action with Buddhist staring contests, fights inside giant robot heads, and all the things that make the spy genre so fun (gadgets and fierce ladies).

[amazon_link id=”0785148620″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the James Bond fan, the consipiracist, or the sci-fi fan.

Gateway Book to: other wild, quirky titles like Chew and Atomic Robo, or intense spy thrillers like Ed Brubaker’s Incognito and Jason Aaron’s Scalped.

The Unwritten

Easily my favorite ongoing series right now, The Unwritten comes from Mike Carey and Peter Gross and there just really aren’t enough nice things I can say about this book.  Coming from a strong literary background (hello, English major!), The Unwritten combs through an impressive canon of Western literature (albeit a very white, male canon) and revolves around the life of Tom Taylor, the symbolic face of a wildly popular series of children’s books.  Think if Harry Potter were a washed up child star with a dad who had gone missing, presumed dead.  Tom’s life gets turned upside down though when secrets about his family start coming out of the woodwork, and famous literary characters start coming out of their stories.

[amazon_link id=”1401225659″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity[/amazon_link] [amazon_link id=”1401228739″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Unwritten Vol. 2: Inside Man[/amazon_link] [amazon_link id=”1401230466″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Unwritten Vol. 3: Dead Man's Knock[/amazon_link] [amazon_link id=”1401232922″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Unwritten Vol. 4: Leviathan[/amazon_link]

Get it for: the book-lover who hasn’t sampled comics yet, the all-around lit geek, and the grown-up Harry Potter fan looking for a character they can relate to.

Gateway Book to:  Harry Potter, other literary indie titles like Fables or Sandman.


Naturally, everybody here at Comic Vault recommends you visit your Local Comic Store to find any of these things for your loved ones this Christmas.  However, if you happen to desire the Amazon hook-up, most of the books featured in this list are at half off their sale price, and there’s just enough time to order for Christmas.  Plus, think how much ramen noodles all those saved dollars will buy.

So from everybody here at Chicago Comic Vault,

Happy Holidays!

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.


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.



Review: Deadpool #45

Deadpool #45
Writer:  Daniel Way
Artist:  Salva Espin & Guru eFX

What happens when the recently-deceased chick who was your therapist/stalker has a freezer full of your dismembered body parts?  [Oooh!  Oooooh!  I know!  One of the most bizarre murder cases since Jeffrey Dahmer?] 

Actually, they thaw out and heal back together into an evil twin with two right hands.  Or at least that’s what they do when you’re Deadpool.

For most of the issue, Daniel Way contrasts what the real Deadpool and Evil Deadpool are doing on their journey from England back to the States.  The issue opens with Evil Deadpool hijacking the private jet of an unnamed [and rather douche-y, might I add] billionaire.  Meanwhile, the real Deadpool is hiding in the belly of a freighter and eating dog food.

As Evil Deadpool decides he doesn’t want money as much as he wants to set the billionaire on fire and throw him out of the plane, the real Deadpool is having a crisis of conscience.  It turns out the freighter he is on is full of kidnapped women from Eastern Europe.  Realpool takes out the traffickers as Evilpool kills the jet’s pilots and flight attendant.  You get the idea.  [And teary eyes when you see the “Good travels, daddy” written on one of the pilot’s lunchboxes.]


Sometimes, a new artist can be a jarring switch, but Salva Espin’s début as the book’s artist isn’t too much of a departure from Carlo Barberi.  Way’s 30-issues-and-counting story of Deadpool trying to find a place to belong or figure out how to die continues to feel fresh without backtracking over the same material.  Seeing how dealing with an evil twin of himself makes Wade further explore his conscience as this story arc progresses will be interesting.

[Coming November 16:  Flying-On-Fire-Guy #1!]

Story:  9/10
Art:  9/10 

[amazon_link id=”B005YDB4VM” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]BUY Deadpool #45 on Amazon[/amazon_link]

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]

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.



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).

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:

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.


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!


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


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!

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…

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:


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!