I Know What You Mean, But You’re Not Saying What You Think You’re Saying

If you’ve spent more than five minutes having a conversation with me, you know that I can be a bit of an ass when it comes to proper use of the language. As one of my cool bosses used to say, when you get to a certain point in your life or your career, “you’ve just got to know The King's English." Now maybe I’m weird because http://www.dictionary.com/ is one of my favorite web-sites, and I know I’ve mentioned before some of the most common pet peeves – it’s/its, your/you’re, there/their, to/too, ensure/insure, then/than, that sort of thing. I’m not saying I’m perfect, hell just the other day I used the word “inciteful” to describe something Brian Wood did. I didn’t mean “insightful,” I know how to use that, I meant something that had the power to “incite,” and writing fast that sounded right, but I looked it up later to find I’d just made it up and used it incorrectly, when I could have used variations of “instigate” or “provocation” instead. But three really choice ones have been popping up around me repeatedly for the last few weeks, and I just need to vent.

First, let’s examine an oldie but a goodie – use of the term “literally.” This word has been so overused as a means of random enhancement that it’s in danger of losing its literal meaning. Heh. See how I just did that? It’s supposed to be used to differentiate between a figurative (like metaphorical) and a literal (like actual) thing taking place. So yeah, don’t tell me that he “literally blew up,” or “literally shit himself,” or “literally lost it,” unless he actually swallowed a stick of dynamite and exploded, actually physically crapped his pants from laughing so hard, or was in possession of “it” and now is not.

Second, I have a coworker who insists on interjecting the word – and I’m using the word “word” loosely here – “reitify” into nearly every conversation he’s involved in. We’ll be in the middle of a staff meeting and he’ll blurt out authoritatively in his deep baritone “I think it’d be a good idea just to ‘reitify’ our policy on this.” And me being me, well I always retort “Yes Mike, we can certainly reiterate or clarify that policy if you feel it would be helpful.” But my correction seems to be lost on him. After growing tired of this repetitious scene, I finally asked my coworkers if they noticed it just to ensure I wasn’t insane. We had fun for days sending this explanation around to eachother.

Lastly, I’ve noticed a resurgence in the use of the wacky term “agreeance,” as in “Yes, I’m in agreeance with that.” This is another wholly made up word that sure sounds like it could be real, but it’s really not necessary when you can just say “agreement” in its place. Not to mention, I can’t think of any actual word in the English language off the top of my head that permits the “e, e, a” sequence for spelling. You can have “e, e” or “e, a” but I’ve not seen “e, e, a” ever.

So "than," "its" just "too" be clear, but let me "reitify" that I will "literally" die if someone "insures" me "their" in "agreeance" with any of this.


6.24.09 Reviews

Uncanny X-Men #512 (Marvel): In a week when price point finally became a noticeable issue, more than half of my purchases clocking in at $3.99 instead of $2.99, this was the only book that offered so much that I felt I was getting my money’s worth. If you were to cross everything I love about the X-Men with Matt Fraction’s sleeper steampunk hit The Five Fists of Science, you’d get this issue. It reads like a hearty self-contained annual, but with solid links to events in all of the current X-books. Beast is able to explain the time jumping technology more coherently and succinctly than Ellis could in Astonishing X-Men or Kyle & Yost could in X-Force. Fraction’s script is overflowing with fun ideas and quotable lines. In an attempt to secure a century’s old set of DNA samples, the team stumbles into a plot to secure technology involving the Hellfire Club, a movement about the rise of the “Overman,” creation of pre-Sentinels designed to defend Home Sapien from Homo Superior (aka: the “Overman”), and leading us to the Dreaming Celestial. Nemesis shines here, as does his mother Mrs. Catherine Bradley, who is probably my favorite new character of the moment. I’d love to see Fraction or Ellis run with her in a period spin-off book in lieu of Ellis’ recent creations like Anna Mercury or the protagonist of Ignition City. As far as the art is concerned… umm, can Yanick Paquette just be the regular series artist? Like, forever? Please? His pencils are competent and consistent in the talky bits and during the action, without the visual ticks of either Land or Dodson. He was born to be paired with Matt Fraction on Uncanny X-Men. Along with Cory Petit’s lettering (check out the seers sequence), these guys instantly became the dream creative team for me, turning in my favorite issue of the post-500 to date. Grade A+.

Northlanders #18 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj offer up the first of a two-part arc entitled The Shield Maidens. Zezelj is one of my favorite artists working today, his representational figures and use of negative space unparalleled. Wood seeks to test the notion that “fate is relentless” with a story (and hell, a book) that has the heart and power to supplant the (comical by comparison) stories of Conan. Now that might sound like inciteful blasphemy, but Wood’s stories are deeper and richer, they have roots in the real world, and are far more relevant to today’s world and reading audience. He’s got a mind for historical research (construction techniques of the Romans) and an ear for dialogue that brings insight into the characters of the age and the types of insults they might hurl – “...here to send you to your nailed God.” So far, Wood’s Northlanders arcs have examined a sociological principle, perhaps this will be a period examination of sexism and male/female roles(?) Grade A.

Detective Comics #854 (DC): It’s a little known secret that I went to high school with Jim, err… JH Williams III. Heck, I still have a print of Rogue he drew back in 1992 and signed issues of Demonic Toys from Eternity Comics (obscure alert!), long before he really started to break in with DC’s wonderful Chase book written by Dan Curtis Johnson. Anyway, it’s good to see him here with Greg Rucka on the longest continuously published comic in the United States. While the inclusion of Kate Kane is a paper thin (late!) attempt by DC to diversify the characters in their line, the lesbian loving Blue Stater in me rejoices! At this point, it’s a bit passé to mention how brilliant Jim’s page layouts and panel designs are, but they are soooo sweet! They fit the tone of Rucka’s crime writing perfectly, juxtaposing the crimson and shadows against the Gotham skyline in a breathtaking way. His brilliance is there in the details too, whether it’s the “J3” hidden on a wall or the detail of the ridges on the inside palm of Batwoman’s gloves. I love seeing Kate’s relationship with Dick being fleshed out, evidenced here in the way she handles his unsolicited advice. The art team really pulls out all the stops, small details like the coloring in the bags under her eyes or big David Mack inspired watercolor renderings really make this something special. Rucka’s script is quick to point out that Kate’s crime fighting choice is already costing her relationships, and I enjoyed her dad playing half Alfred, half Microchip, to her Bat/Punisher archetype. Overall, this is a great intro to who Kate is, her relationships, the b-players, her sexuality, etc. Rucka is establishing long form foils, and I loved the look of the coven leader. She looks like White Death, complete with fleur de lys motifs and Amidala lipstick. The Rucka/Cully Hamner back up story featuring The Question is just a competent little thing, about a Grade C, and the “Magic Egg” from DC Editorial was uber-lame, but overall you gotta’ love how this run about Batwoman is shaping up. Grade A.

Dark Reign: Zodiac #1 (Marvel): I have no idea who Zodiac is or how he fits into this whole Dark Reign affair, but you really had me at hello. Joe Casey? Nathan Fox? Sold. Joe Casey is always worth a look and Nathan Fox is a direct descendant of the Paul Pope aesthetic. In fact, the opening shot even reminds me of Pope’s early work Escapo. Fox’s pencils are delightfully claustrophobic with their details and sound effects merged seamlessly into the action. He offers us wonderful flying cars and inventive forensic bits like the “Z” symbol. Overall, this was a fun intro to a villain that peeks into the amusing world of rank and file HAMMER agents and delivers typical Casey lines (you can almost imagine Godland’s Basil Cronus speaking them) like “That just ain’t how I roll” or comtemplative baddies quipping “Then again, I’m all about the dichotomies that exist inside each of us.” Grade A-.

Astonishing X-Men #30 (Marvel): Ironically, as Simone Bianchi delivers his last issue of AXM, his pencils are suddenly less chaotic and the panel layouts are tame enough for us to finally follow the story. He’s able to capture the manic insanity of Forge while displaying interesting perspective choices. Ellis’ script is subtle and sublime in places, offering interesting bits of regretful pondering as Hank recalls his childhood with Scott. There are also some real zingers in the dialogue, such as “Emma Frost. I didn’t recognize you with your legs together.” While this issue is interesting compared to the relative decompression of the preceding five, it feels rushed – smacking of the last scene in a play or movie in which the villain monologues his intent and fills in all of the story gaps for the audience. Overall, a decent ending to a very choppy and inconsistent arc. The buzz has seemed to fade quickly from this title after Whedon and Cassaday’s run, then the announcement of Warren Ellis and Simone Bianchi. I’m unaware of the next creative team and unless it’s someone really special, I’m not sure I care. Grade B+.

Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men: Utopia #1 (Marvel): Matt Fraction kicks off yet another Marvel U crossover with a Stamford-like event that catalyzes events to come. The story feels a bit long and drawn out, padding the extra pages I suppose. The ideas at play are politically charged and intense, but unfortunately the art isn’t helping out the script one bit. Marc Silvestri’s current style isn’t to my liking to begin with, and when he’s aided by 4 other artists(!) and 9 inkers(!!) things get a little dicey in terms of consistency, general quality, and certainly readability. The script tries to overcome the odds with great lines like “It’s Mayor Sinclair when I’m yelling at you,” but the art just isn’t all that clear. What’s Emma doing? I don’t understand what Norman offers her in exchage for aiding him. Charles is in jail? He’s alive? Huhwha? Grade B-.

X-Force #16 (Marvel): The best part of the final installment of the Messiah War arc is that it’s full of little moments of heartbreak and stoicism, mostly in Apocalypse’s voice over. I’m also still a fan of Clayton Crain’s dark murky art, notice how he captures the panic on Hope’s face during the fight sequences. Those things aside, this issue was superficially quite rousing, but ultimately hollow, doing nothing but returning us to the status quo, as all poor crossover events do. There’s some mystery insinuated about what Hope truly is, and I guess Kiden is dead? We’re left with a dangling plot thread as to the fate of Boom Boom, and after all his byzantine machinations, Bishop can’t even pull the trigger when he finally has Hope in his sights. Lame. Cable and Hope are still time jumping in the future, Bishop is still determined to go after them, Apocalypse and Stryfe are still alive, and the X-Force squad is still all chewed up. So what was the point? Grade C+.

Berserker #1 (Top Cow): Sea Donkey somehow hooked me up with this issue for free. Is this part of the Top Cow “try it free this year” or whatever thing I vaguely recall…? Anywho, screenwriter Rick Loverd and artist Jeremy Haun give us an odd duck that does read like a movie treatment. We’ve got Top Cow and something called Divide Pictures, Milo Ventimiglia’s name sprinkled prominently about, and then a resurrected Dale Keown for a truly odd assortment of chaps. The basic premise is mildly interesting – watcher types from Asgard and Midgard recruiting powers I guess – but the vignettes are choppy and Haun’s typically refined pencils look rushed and are over-inked. In the end text piece, the writer keeps referencing something called “Untethered,” but that word is nowhere else to be found in the book. Was that the original title? Is it the title of this story arc? This issue? Who knows? The last page is comically gratuitous and by the way, it’s “sabotage,” not “saboutage.” I’m just sayin’. It was free, so Grade C.


Graphic Novel Of The Month

Wasteland: Book 04: Dog Tribe (Oni Press): Book 04 of Wasteland reaches a creative pinnacle associated with the notion of world building. Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten make us feel, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that The Big Wet Universe expands far beyond the confines of the printed page. This effect is best evidenced by the wonderful bonus material that explains how thoroughly thought out the Dog Tribe arc was; look how much work and preparation was behind it all that never even ended up on the printed page. Whether it was the original town of Providens, the city of Newbegin and its inhabitants, Artisians or Sunners, the people of Sultan Ameer’s Caravan, The Dog Tribes, Ruin Runners like Michael, or the in-between issues about the children and the founding of Newbegin, or the fleshing out of relatively minor characters in Carla Speed McNeil’s issue, Johnston is methodically building a world and its various people. And it’s not just their simple introduction, but the presentations of their languages, looks, customs, and social hierarchy. These amazing detours are established and explored momentarily, while the overall story still progresses forward. And what to say about Christopher Mitten that hasn't already been confessed dozens of times? He’s capable of rendering anything thrown at him in the scripts with quiet confidence. His pencils are not just convincing shots of people and their emotion or the clarity of the rousing action sequences, but joyous there in the little detailed flourishes found in the clothing, weapons, backgrounds, jewelry, and baubles. Simply put, I’m brimming with excitement about the impending 25th issue and hardcover Apocalyptic Edition, hoping for more discovery of the universe and more special behind the scenes material. Wasteland began as an exciting mash up of some accepted genre conventions which quickly coalesced into something greater than the sum of its parts, it then grew to be a cautionary tale that allowed us to examine ourselves like all great art does, and has now added the ongoing seminar in writing and art that both those in the field, and those hoping to be, can aspire to. The word that springs to mind with this book is commitment to craft. Perhaps the most heartfelt compliment I can pay is that Antony Johnston is the kind of writer I want to be; not what he writes per se, but how he writes it, how he approaches his craft. Here it is folks... the best book you're not reading. Grade A+.


6.17.09 Reviews

Phonogram: The Singles Club #3 (Image): I’ve always been drawn to sharp and decisive language. Kieron Gillen’s roots as a music writer shine through with an entertaining exercise in perspective and end notes which are worth the price of admission alone, provided you’re really just in the mood to witness some good writing. One of the back-up stories, David Kohl: Phonomancer, boasts Leigh Gallagher pencils that use some Silver Age style panel layouts, exposition boxes, and general aesthetic. This short story really captures the spirit of Phonogram with lines like “While I show surface contempt for your feminist pop music, I still come for your women,” met by “Please, come in, evil phallocrat.” Even if you don’t enjoy Phonogram, the industry needs more comics like it, the ones that push the definition and standard conventions of the form with a delicious convergence of pop culture ephemera. Grade A.

Invincible Iron Man #14 (Marvel): It’s amazing how writer Matt Fraction has such a better handle on this single character and his bit players than the big unwieldy cast of Uncanny X-Men. Tony’s wistful tone about what it used to be like to be a hero was well played, as multiple plot threads are managed in a seamless fashion. While Larroca does sneak in a couple gratuitous panty shots with The Black Widow, overall his pencils have grown leaps and bounds in the course of about a year. Lost are the CGish, overly rendered, photoref’d panels. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is that when I read this book, the pen simply goes down, I forget to take notes for review purposes, and just get sucked into it, eagerly turning the pages as a fan, for sheer enjoyment of the story. Grade A.

Punisher #6 (Marvel): It’s disturbing to see typos and weird printing errors sprinkled about from a big publisher in such a quality book. On the very first page, we have “who’s to say you can’t to it again?” In the character profiles, we can’t seem to decide if the character is named “Leetha” or “Letha.” Then the words “one last thing” appear as free floating text, lacking a proper text box. The first full page shot lets us know that Tan Eng Huat is capable of filling the big shoes left by Jerome Opena. Huat’s pencils capture the gritty fevered feel that’s necessary for Rick Remender’s script. His intrusion scene plays cinematic and overall seems much more refined than his frosh work on DC’s attempted Doom Patrol revival. For the $3.99 price tag, Marvel still tries to compensate with the inclusion of some villain character profiles, which is a nice touch. Grade B+.

Red Mass for Mars #3 (Image): Oh, is this book still being published? The last issue came out in October of 2008. It’s a 4 issue mini-series. And this is all after the original delayed/revised/apologized/whatever explanation date from Jonathan Hickman. Ridiculous much? Yet despite the publishing follies, Hickman is still a creator to watch. And Ryan Bodenheim on art is a true find. In spots, I can see a Frank Quitely influence, with the fine lines in the furrowed brows, lithe women, and thin anemic figures which breathe so much emotion. As for the actual story…? Hell if I remember. Something about parallel Earths, Gods of War, heroes assembling, and some scientists doing… science. Unfortunately, the book is about as entertaining as two straight chics playing drunken kissy-face at a party. I enjoy it while I’m standing there looking, but I have no idea how we got here and if it actually means anything. I can’t tell you anything meaningful about it, other than it happened. In my recollection, the book seems to gloss over the most crucial bits, showing us scenes that happen just before or just after what would have been something interesting. Issue 2 ends with like the last 39 heroes or something being assembled to fight some alien horde (I think) and then this issue opens with the disappointing words “4 months later.” To kill the poor analogy completely, it’s like skipping ahead to find the chics hungover in bed the next morning acting all embarrassed and boring, having missed all the uninhibited mutual exploration of the naughty bits. There’s a terrifically horrific and abbreviated birth scene and interesting themes about power corrupting, absolute systems of government being flawed, and nobody available to watch the Watchmen essentially, but it’s sadly lost in the publishing debacle. Perhaps it’ll read better when finally collected. For now, Grade B-.

Cable #15 (Marvel): As the crossover winds down, it makes you realize just how silly Bishop’s (lack of) plan was all along. This event started with the promise of something exciting with real stakes in play, but has degenerated to some mumbo-jumbo that will just come full circle back to the status quo as most big “event” books do. I guess the reveal of Kiden Nixon was supposed to bear some sort of gravitas(?) but since I never followed Laura or the X-23 business, I have no idea. The depiction of Logan’s bloodlust was interesting for a moment, but in general the art is clunky with awkward poses and disproportion being the norm. There’s a lot of dialogue that sounds like empty Star Wars riffing, all about your father, and your true power at my side, and even the villain being hurled down a chasm in his own throne room. Ah well, there’s only one more issue to go and I’m curious to see what happens to Apocalypse… and that Kaare Andrews cover for X-Force #16 sure is nifty. Grade C+.

I also picked up;

Wasteland: Book 04: Dog Tribe (Oni press): The best book you’re not reading.

Low Moon (Fantagraphics): Jason! Hardcover! Color!


6.10.09 Reviews - Part 2

DMZ #42 (DC/Vertigo): Fuck! It’s so nice to read a good book with some sort of discernible authorial intent instead of all that dreck I consumed yesterday. Every once in a while you get to see a powerful creative team coalesce. I still remember buying a little book called Flex Mentallo off the stands in the early 90’s, from an up and coming Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Coming around to the point, Brian Wood and frequent collaborator Ryan Kelly have given us Local, The New York Four, an arc of Wood’s other Vertigo epic Northlanders, and now take us on a three issue tour of the DMZ. As the first part of the No Future arc opens, Wood is careful to give us allegory, not analogy, to 9/11, with the emotional toll the Civil War has taken. Wood plays with the recurring theme in DMZ of perspective, reminding us that the terms insurgent/terrorist/freedom fighter are all a matter of perspective. I also really liked the notion of granting permission to do something chaotic being all the catalyst that’s needed for an acquiescence of inertia to propel the deed into reality. Kelly delivers in a big way, depicting bone chilling cold in the rainy shanty towns of the DMZ, or something as subtle as somehow conveying emotion behind a gas mask. As with the recent issue of Northlanders, Wood’s prose is reaching new heights here: “…and then set loose in the dark playground of fear and violence. We felt like gods.” Like Jason Aaron does so well on the other “best” Vertigo book out there – Scalped – Wood is brilliant at world building. He proves that as a good writer, he doesn’t even need his ostensible lead character of Matty Roth to tell a compelling story. Like Aaron’s Rez in Scalped, the main character of DMZ is the city itself. Also included in this issue is a great preview of Peter Milligan and Davide Gianfelice’s Greek Street, framed as a reimagined modern tragedy, further proof that Vertigo is coming on in a big way. Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #511 (Marvel): This book has got to be the most roller coastery experience I’ve had in a while. Every other issue makes me want to drop the title and every other issue makes me feel like it’d be ok to stick around. It’s a continual tit for tat starring throwing in the towel and renewed hope. I was ready to give up last issue, but this issue is somehow surprisingly ok. There was actually nothing offensive in either the writing or art. There was simply tons of fighting, some surprising moves around Allison and the whole Kwannon/Betsy Braddock/Psylocke deal, and Hank stepping up with some words. It was perfectly competent, popcorn entertainment. Shrug. Grade B.

X-Men Forever #1 (Marvel): I think this effort from Chris Claremont and Tom Grummett can best be summed up as harmless fun. It’s got your typical Claremont melodramatic exposition, with plenty of dense thought balloons and caption boxes. Gambit spouts out regarding Rogue “I know – if you touch her bare skin with your own, she’ll absorb your powers and identity.” Yes, Remy, we know. We all know. As if no one reading this comic will know how Rogue’s powers work!? Overall, it’s full of action and quips, endless banter between Nick Fury and Professor X that goes nowhere and resolves nothing, and illogical bits to propel the action forward (like, uhh, why doesn’t Scott just close his eyes to avoid the optic blast Fabian uses?). Grummett does a nice job of aping Jim Lee’s 90’s style, and I especially liked his rendition of Kitty’s almond shaped eyes. Not much else to say. No need to pay full price, might pick this up from a dollar bin for cheap reading material. This is like your basic ham and cheese sandwich. It’s not going to be a memorable meal, but it’ll fill you up momentarily. Grade B-.


6.10.09 Reviews - Part 1

The Unwritten #2 (DC/Vertigo): Mike Carey and Peter Gross continue to put this book together remarkably well. There’s a ton of effort being poured into the book, from the free floating prose, to the great panel layouts, and the faux web searches and chat sessions – yet I still feel bored. I’m sorry, I know the book has its fans, and some friends convinced me to give the book another shake after my review of the first issue, but I can’t shake the sense of ennui it instills in me. I do enjoy the craft of it like I said, I appreciate the random bits of literary trivia and calculated blurring of the line between reality and fantasy, but it’s confounding to me that everyone seems to know more than they let on, compared to Tom – and the audience. Instead of being intrigued, I’m feeling frustrated. I’m probably in the minority declaring that I’ll take a pass on the series, but it’s crafted well and has some interesting qualities. A probably not for me… Grade B.

Batman #687 (DC): It’s exciting to see the official ascension of Dick Grayson to Batman, though editorialistically… err, something, this is confusing, as it seems to all pre-date what’s happened in Batman & Robin #1 last week. Here we see Dick making the transition from Nightwing garb to the Bat mantle, and Tim still as Robin, with Damian mentioned, but mostly off panel. There are some touching callbacks to the seminal “Death in the Family” story, sufficiently somber shots of the glass cases housing the empty uniforms, and Alfred tearing up as he refers to Bruce as his son, but the narrative seems out of balance. I would have liked to see much more of Dick setting up his new HQ, the relationships with both Alfred and Damian, a conversation with Jim Gordon (does he even know it’s Dick behind the cowl?), and the impact on the trifecta including Clark and Diana, which upholds much of the DCU. Instead we get silly scenes of Scarecrow on a bridge, a Heat style bank heist, and a going nowhere bit about Doctor Phosphorous. I did enjoy Dick’s recurring dismissal of Damian’s attitude (“Get in the car.”), but overall this is a boring denouement to the first issue. Judd Winick and Ed Benes offer something passable, but not very rousing. It shows promise in theory, but lacks pizzazz in execution. Grade B-.

Buck Rogers #1 (Dynamite Entertainment): I suppose it’s considered poor form these days to call a weak book weak, but this is so… painfully straightforward. I grew up in the 80’s, so the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers is a part of my Saturday morning rerun DNA (though my Buck Rogers was Captain William “Buck” Rogers, why the book insists on calling him Anthony Rogers I don’t know), along with Erin Gray (whose been a seemingly permanent fixture on the con circuit as long as I’ve been going) as Wilma Deering, the cheap looking aesthetic of the Hawks and the whole Easter Island arc, and even that (would probably be hoary and silly today, so I’ve resisted re-watching it to avoid spoiling the nostalgia) space vampire episode, which was one of the scariest things I’d seen up until that point. This new series doesn’t do anything wrong per se, unless you consider being boring a crime in today’s marketplace. It’s a shame too because superficially it’s got all of the trappings that I’d usually like. There’s the slick production values of Dynamite, the Cassaday covers (and for simple curb appeal, it doesn’t get a whole lot better on the stands than a Cassaday cover), and a competent creative team, but it falls flat. This character archetype doesn’t do anything that Hal “Highball” Jordan hasn’t done already, and the choppy scene transitions left me scratching my head – I guess the crash scene turning into the space scene was a blackout(?), but without any sort of visual cue how am I supposed to infer that? Overall, it’s feeling like a pricey ($3.50) conglomeration of the watered down remnants, in both content and approach, of better books. I’ll just stick with Fear Agent (space thrills!), The Lone Ranger (reimaging of an old property!), and a dash of Dan Dare (swagger and charm!) thrown in for good measure. Grade C.

Red Robin #1 (DC): I have some faith in Christopher Yost after his stints co-writing New X-Men and (currently) X-Force, so I thought I’d give this a spin (while resisting bottomless french fry jokes, heh). Despite my love for the Bat Family, I’m a little confused right from jump. It seems that despite its Elseworlds origins, deliberate effort is being made lately to make Kingdom Come official canon and to drive current continuity toward that story. However, as I recall, Dick Grayson was behind the Red Robin mask, not Tim Drake. So, it’s odd to find Tim here. I find it equally odd that Dick would essentially push Tim out of the roster to make room for Damian as Robin. It’s an out of character move, considering the same thing happened to him and he’s always been the more sensitive one, not to mention his friendship with Tim. Perhaps it’s tough love, in his heart knowing his own move to Nightwing was ultimately healthy, but it seems he could have facilitated the next step for Tim in a more supportive way. I do like that he doesn’t automatically “graduate” to the Nightwing role. While Batman is inherently an idea that Dick can fill, Nightwing was intrinsically Dick (even down to the name, which reflects his unique relationship to Superman). I also like the way that Tim reacts to this and creates the Red Robin persona as a way of dealing with his anger over Bruce’s death and the isolation he feels at being excluded from Dick’s plans. While there are some interesting story threads flailing around, Ramon Bachs' art isn’t helping matters much. There are isolated flashes of brilliance that bring to mind the thick lines of say, David Lapham or Ryan Kelly, but the majority of the panels are pretty wonky, with bubbly Bimmers, disgusting Ducatis, and downright Liefeldian lower legs and feet. Tim seems to ask himself a lot of rhetorical questions in order for the exposition to begin. What’s then revealed is a really formulaic approach with no real hook. Grade C.


6.03.09 Reviews

Scalped #29 (DC/Vertigo): As Jason Aaron hits the crescendo of High Lonesome, he’d make Quentin Tarantino proud as the arc pulls a Pulp Fiction and doubles back on itself with intertwined stories from different perspectives, forcing new meaning to ripple back through issues we’ve already consumed. It's evident from the first page, the way that shotgun was being slung, that some shit was going to go down this issue. We're treated to a voyeuristic witnessing of the mental breakdown of Dash Bad Horse. To put it in a single word, this issue wrestles with the notion of fate. What I'm finding interesting about Scalped, in that it's an endemic pattern, is the way that Jason Aaron concludes an arc by ending his thoughts on a theme he's been toying with, but the story continues, often times with the same characters and action put into motion carrying over into the next arc. Random quote to summarize my feeling on this issue... it's a toss up between the old causality notion “If a butterly flaps its wings in Tokyo…?” and “The true sin is not the act itself that's committed, or even repenting for it and feeling remorse, it’s waking up one day and wanting to do it all over again.” Grade A-.

Seaguy: Slaves of Mickey Eye #3 (DC/Vertigo): One the one hand, this reminds me of the dreaded sophomore slump in the music biz, wherein the second album, following the first one that hit big, invariably tries to go deeper and examine disillusionment with fame, but ultimately repeats many of the same themes in a less crisp fashion. So yeah, this little trifecta of goodness does smack of repitition, it also relies on fodder from a Matrix style construct to exert control over society and counter the anti-consumerism mindset. But alas, there are some flashes of brilliance. The second the wedding is interrupted, we enter into a breathtakingly rousing sequence; Doc Hero is quite notable sans costume, the Seadog as Blackhawk aesthetic is tasty, I enjoyed the River Styx vis-à-vis Epcot Center, and most brilliantly Cameron Stewart’s usually grand pencils just go ballistic with the denouement of the sword fight. But the overarching narrative really takes off when you read Seaguy as Pinocchio wishing to be a real boy, and Chubby as Jiminy Cricket. Once you figure out who Geppetto, Figaro, and Stromboli are, you’re really onto something. Random quotes for this thing: “Girls who are attracted to bad boys finally understand now that they don’t want to *fuck* the bad boy, they desperately want to *be* the bad boy." That or “…this whole notion of I can see the moon from my backyard, so now I’m an astrophysicist.” Grade A-.

Batman & Robin #1 (DC): The inevitable comparison to Frank Miller's ASSBAR, well, it ain’t much of a discussion since this is far superior. So far it doesn’t look to be the archetypical character examination that All Star Superman was (though hey, it's only the first issue), but a more straightforward thriller with little flourishes scurrying about. There’s the Eisner inspired sound effects drawn into the structure of the panels, the villainous new villains touting the villainy of a Saw/Seven/Lecter kind of protagonist, as G’Mo and F’Quit test the pairing of a Dick Batman and Damian Robin. But whatever, you could have basically put two roles of toilet paper together and slapped a DC logo on it and I’d have bought it anyway, provided you said the words “Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely doing Dick Grayson.” I mean, they only did one of my favorite books of all time (I meant Flex Mentallo, why, what did you think I meant?) and Dick is my favorite character in the DCU. So yeah, tally ho, I’m in. Random quotes: "The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth." Or a simple “We got the tools, we got the talent!” Grade A-.