7.29.09 Reviews

Detective Comics #855 (DC): With a writer as capable as Greg Rucka, this arc of ‘Tec certainly has its intrigue. But, it’s no surprise that the reason to poke your head into this door is the art of JH Williams III. And then some. It’s phenomenal. Every single panel is rendered with so much nuanced detail, color variation, and layered depth that they all function as little mini-masterpieces. The kinetic layouts pull your eye joyously across the page. It’s just beautiful. There are flirty poses, without being gratuitous, when she’s disarming High Madame. And who the hell does a POV shot from inside the villain’s uber-creepy mouth?! On a macro level, it’s a fun tumble as Batwoman goes down her own virtual rabbit hole and into a drug-induced wonderland. On the micro level, check out the red boxes which cleverly zoom your eye and draw attention to impact points or other bits of interest. There really is nobody else doing stuff like this; this is going to be one of Those Runs that everyone still talks about in a few years. The Question back up story is full of humorless quips and clunky art. I could really do without it. For the $3.99 price tag, I’d rather just have more Batwoman. Another option would be to yank The Question story out and back the price off to $2.99. I know it’s supposed to be a “bonus” story, but it’s really dragging down what would otherwise be a near-perfect “+” grade package. There’s also a preview of Adventure Comics #1 from Geoff Johns and Francis Manapul. Oh, is Superboy coming back already? As is, Grade A.

Northlanders #19 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj’s second and final installment of The Shield Maidens feels like it was informed by Sun Tzu. It is part forward thinking primer on guerrilla warfare tactics, part examination of Christian religious attitudes toward the fairer sex. All the while, fate, karma, belief, and mercy swirl around and propel the story forward. Wood has been practicing his humor chops too; “Come on up here, let me sit on your face…” is an irreverent shocker that breathes realistic life into his characters. Zezelj’s thick inky lines are right at home, dovetailing perfectly into the somber, dismal mood of three women resigned to their principled fate. There’s also a Filthy Rich preview, which makes me think noir is the new pirates/zombies/insert your own fad here, which I’m growing tired of. Grade A.

The Lone Ranger #17 (Dynamite Entertainment): It’s amazing how much is relayed in this issue without dialogue, feeling like a deliberate and conscious recognition that words would only cheapen the beauty of the pictures telling an action filled story. Our heroes pull off some Robin Hood-y (steal from the evil, give to the poor) deeds as the dust settles from the last string of adventures and they gear up for the next big storm on the horizon, which is the looming threat of Cavendish. This title is still probably the best reimaging of an aged property within the last five years. Grade B+.

Wednesday Comics #4 (DC): AzzBats opens with some nice shadow work, ends with a sexy cliffhanger, and has a lyrical quality to the dialogue with lilting prose like “Then, though it’s against my nature, so shall I.” This strip is a lot like that uber-hot girl you saw at that party that one time. I don’t think she’s ever going to sleep with you, but you’ll certainly enjoy standing there watching her dance. SooKamandi is like going to a garage sale and finding some wondrous old 1950’s pulpy sci-fi book that nobody else but you has ever had the joy of discovering. ProzacMan manages to make Superman and his cast both smarmy and depressing. The story also moves slow as molasses. DeadStrip comes with a bit of intrigue visually – I liked that half the page is one single panel, but I have no recollection of what’s going on or why. This feels like an ’86 Chevy truck stuck in the mud, just spinning its wheels. Green Busiek picks up right where it left off, capturing the spirit of the strip paradigm. Hal still looks a bit too cartoony for my taste, but otherwise this is spot on. Metamorpho is harmlessly straightforward, but you’d certainly expect some more “pop” considering the creative team. Unfortunately this issue feels like a simple Honda Accord, and you’d really hope that Gaiman and Allred would offer a tricked out vintage Triumph TR7 for us to ogle. ‘Tween Titans feels like an actual teenager wrote it. It flits around from character to character, but without a POV character to view events through or anything invested in these characters, it’s hard to care about what’s going on. Galloway’s art is settling down, but it’s not quite manga and not quite a more typical Western style – neither fish nor fowl. Pulp Hope Adventures keeps up Pope’s commitment to “elegant and brutal comics” with stripped lines like “her defiant gaze” and flyers that reminded me of Dr. Seuss contraptions. If a candied apple held the secrets of the universe – sticky, sweet, messy, and powerfully insightful – Paul Pope could draw it like this. FunGirl reminds me of seeing Amanda Conner on the Wednesday Comics Panel at the con; she said that once she learned of the talent that would be involved in the project she panicked. How to distinguish herself and her strip from this lot? She decided to make Supergirl “vomitously adorable.” She succeeded. What-The-DiDio? Men has surprisingly affable writing and wildly fun art courtesy of Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan. Blunder Woman opens with 10 panels of pure exposition, in which the titular character talks to absolutely no one. If your 14 year old daughter started popping quaaludes and expousing her future career of riding around in a miniature thimble at night, it might be like this. I managed to read the first third of the strip this time, which means it’s either getting better or it’s wearing me down. If DC wanted a cutesy lighthearted fairy tale-esque throwback, they should have enlisted Mike Kunkel instead. An ambitious concept poorly executed. Sgt. Gitmo has now delivered four issues of torture and interrogation, but it certainly is beautiful to look at. Flash Comics could teach something to Wonder Woman; this is how you effectively capture the period feel of something, homage to 1950’s romance and 1960’s superhero aesthetic all in one. Daimon Hellstrom & Black Panther is just all contrivance. Really, pick a random character with an animal in the name. Catwoman? Ok. Pick a random occult character. Demon? Ok. Now come up with a story that involves both of them somehow. I haven’t been 100% steeped in DC lore in the last couple years thanks to Final Infinite Crisis Legion Night 52 Years Later, but did these characters ever have an association before this? Kyle Baker’s Hawkman is distinctly his own, awesome JLA and Batman cameos, along with an Aquaman jab. This strip is what Dynamite Entertainment’s Buck Rogers wishes it was. On the surface, Wednesday Comics appears to be smart, funny, and attractive (the Holy Trinity for women in my life), but looking deeper reveals the adage that beauty can only be skin deep. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m a visual learner. If you were to stack these strips from best to worst, it might look something like this;

Strange Adventures

Flash Comics
Sgt. Rock & Easy Co.
Green Lantern
Metal Men

Demon & Catwoman
Teen Titans
Wonder Woman

What this reveals is that the quality is thin at the top, fat in the middle, and weighted toward the bottom. 20% of the strips are in the top tier, 54% are middling, and 26% are on the bottom. Maybe that’s all just a fancy way of saying that the good strips are good, the bad ones are awful, and there’s a ton in the middle. Many members of the blogosphere feel that the price tag is hefty for newsprint, but I still maintain this is a good deal. It feels like 15 books in one, and the experimental format still curries favor. That leads us right back to where we were last week, form gaining massive points over function in most cases - a generous Grade B.

Cars I've (Wished I'd) Owned (Part 12 of 14)

1974 BMW 3.0csi
Aka: “The Classic”

This is the classic car I have always dreamed of owning and restoring to this pristine condition in juuust the right color – Polaris Silver. The 3.0 was sleek and edgy and the “csi” had tricked out, ahead-of-its-time design features, such as that cloisonné badge on the b-pillars. Along with the 2002 model, these two cars are basically credited with saving the company from bankruptcy when nothing else in the world was selling. And hell, I think it bears a vague resemblance to the old school Batmobile. I love this car.

Cars I've (Wished I'd) Owned (Part 11 of 14)

1988 BMW M5
Aka: “The Cult”

The E28 M5 came in one model year and one model year only. It cost Bayerische Motoren Werke something like $80,000 to produce this car, and they sold it for around $30,000 (yes, deliberately losing money in the process – this was their business model) simply because the fans demanded it and they wanted to start building the M brand in the US. I always thought that was really fucking cool. And it worked. Between this and the M3 of the time, M cars developed a cult following that’s only emboldened with time. With a total production of only 2,191 units actually built, the E28 M5 remains among the rarest regular production BMW Motorsport cars ever trotted out. And like Henry Ford said about the Model T, you could get it in any color you wanted – as long as it was black.


San Diego Comic Con 2009: Small Press Round Up

Reich #5-6 (Sparkplug Comics): At last year’s San Diego Con, I picked up Reich #1-4 and was blown away by Elijah Brubaker’s research ability and attention to detail in his penciling. Since my LCS seems to have an ever-growing aversion to small press titles, I was excited to pick up another two issues this year and see how the story continued to unfold. It’s not an excruciating wait since Brubaker seems to be on a quarterly schedule. These two issues focus squarely on the peril (and paranoia) of the life of a real-world sexual/political activist. With his aggressive conviction of beliefs, Reich surpasses Freud (in his own mind) as an arbiter of abstract thought. He doesn’t want to be bound by societal norms, which is the way he perceives Freud to be, evidenced in a telling sequence where Freud is portrayed like a caged animal pacing back and forth. Reich wants the freedom to explore and educate, but his natural paranoia about both communists and psychoanalyst organizations out to get him is only fueled by real world suspension of freedoms by the government in the name of preserving itself. The book's link between sex and politics is really captured crisply with lines like “the public craves discipline and tyranny because everyone is so sexually repressed.” It also manages to capture the rapid pre-War decline with “Germany was the guiding light of cultural and progressive thought. Now it’s a vile, soulless place.” We’re given another rare treat in the form of a flashback to Reich’s youth which explains how an early brothel experience has helped inform his views of sex and male/female hierarchy. Brubaker’s pencils continue to astound with emotive lines, clever cross-hatching, and a unique sense of style, bringing a level of fun and engagement to a set of topics that might otherwise play boring. Grade A.

Sausage Hand (Teenage Dinosaur & Sparkplug Comics): Even though I got this book for free from Tim Goodyear, I actually don’t think I would have minded the $6 price tag. At 80 pages, it reads less like a mini-comic and more like a sprawling graphic novel. It’s dense and weighty, both physically and thematically. While there are some minor struggles with perspective (notice how the gun barrel is positioned in early panels), Andrew Smith’s book is very attractive aesthetically. The art is a mélange of styles informed by everyone from Robert Crumb and Tony Millionaire to I Will Destroy You’s Tom Neely. One of the books consistent themes is an unspoken link between sex and violence. Notice how the pig aspect-of-self erects his business only when he’s in the process of killing, or how another aspect of self does the same when accosted by the book store clerk. The events are awash in a malleable reality with surreal and skewed perspective shots that bristle with life. Sausage Hand is particularly concerned with external existential quandaries (What is my purpose? Why do I exist?) and internal turmoil with various aspects of self – Freud’s psychic apparatus of the id, ego, and superego – all competing for dominance. Smith also offers up some memorable one-liners, such as the “triune joy” of the modern consumer ethic or “you only discipline someone you care about,” which possess a worldly wisdom beyond their low-fi form. Grade A.

And Then One Day #7 (Elephant Eater): This issue of ATOD centers on conversations between autobiographical comics entrepreneur Ryan Claytor and Dr. Harry Polkinhorn, an authority on the personal essay. Claytor's autobio endeavors are... humble and self-deprecating are probably terms too strong, but possess a... healthy sense of self-awareness, which is immensely appealing. The conversation between the two weaves in and out of the differences between the personal essay and more factual autobio, but interestingly notes that the line is blurred. Polkinhorn's notion that personal writing is just veiled autobio because it still reflects the person's values and aspirations is a particularly interesting one. This idea sits nicely with Claytor's own proprietary belief in a continuum of truth and fiction. They're both profound approaches that ultimately question what an author's goal is - conveyance of simple fact or of a more personalized ideal - perhaps "truth" is some odd blend of the two hemispheres of the brain controlling empirical absolutes and subjective emotion (that last bit is my idea, not theirs). I thought it was a revealing moment when the good natured humor of their conversation belies a generational rift: "you kids and your internet." I like Claytor's inquisitive nature balanced by his deferential treatment of someone in a position of authority or with some alternate perspective on a topic. Claytor’s art continues to grow, evident here with richer backgrounds and more variation in the line weight. As usual with Claytor’s work, it's not just about what it’s about, it's about how it’s about what it’s about. The approach, the practice, the methods are just as illuminating as the ostensible “story” or events being relayed. Like any good art, it educates the reader - Claytor actually made me look up a word. On the last page, he uses the term “pertainant.” Ultimately, my investigation was inconclusive. I'm not sure if this is a typo and he meant to letter “pertinent.” The term “pertainant” seems to be so widely used that I'm not sure if it’s actually a word or just a very common spelling error. End digression. As usual, Ryan's work is the perfect coupling of erudition and accessibility. Grade A.

The Machinist #1 (Elephant Eater): Ryan Claytor’s 24 Hour Comic is not only impressive from a pure craft standpoint, (you try making a comic in 24 hours that looks as polished and professional), but offers up meaty social commentary as well. The book examines the plight of the Detroit Auto Industry, and to a greater extent the entire American Midwest. In that sense, it's not unlike its great contemporary Skyscrapers of the Midwest, a narrative about the collapsing shards of the American Dream. The Machinist is a one-man stage play, but I got the feeling the unnamed protagonist wasn’t just monologuing or offering exposition; it felt more like an intimate conversation with God. Artistically, it doesn’t feel very rushed, which one might expect for a 24 Hour Comic, there's still plenty of details like the little bubbles and “hic” notations to emphasize the drunken rantings of the main player. It's a mix of anger and despair, and risking the loss of dignity. I say “risking” deliberately because Claytor makes a very compelling choice to have the man pick up his broken bottle and not add to the decay and squalor he sees in the crumbling building and economy around him. It's a horrible situation that somehow manages to end on a note of hope and pride. This might be one of my favorite works from Ryan Claytor for that one scene alone; it makes me want to see more work like this from him. The Machinist is timely, well done, and certainly recommended. Grade A.

Cars I've (Wished I'd) Owned (Part 10 of 14)

1991 E30 M3
Aka: “The Race Car”

The first generation M3 was really the M car that made M cars what they are today. When I attended the Skip Barber Racing School they were even using these in their courses. It was basically a perfectly balanced, street legal race car right out of the box. Built from 1988-1991 (coincidentally, also my 4 high school years, oh how I lusted after the M3), guys in the know are still auto-crossing these box-flared beauties all over the country and destroying wannabe cars that are 15 years newer. If ever there was a “perfect” BMW made, this is a shoe-in contender for the title.

Cars I've (Wished I'd) Owned (Part 9 of 14)

I’m extending this series of posts to include cars I’d realistically like to own. Now, let’s be clear about what that means. Sure, there are tons of cars I simply like and have wondered about or pictured owning, like the last gen Subaru WRX, Mercedes SLK Roadster, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, various Range Rovers, Mazda’s RX-8, BMW’s 850i, Z8, M6, M-Coupe, or fantasy Lamborghini Diablo type stuff (I could do this all day…), but I’m really trying to stick to cars I’ve seriously considered or have actively sought after at one point or another, the ones that have made a lasting impression.

1967 Sunbeam Alpine Tiger
Aka: “The Tiger”

You basically take a sexy, lightweight 1960’s English convertible and drop a Ford Windsor V8 into it and get like 350 to 400hp depending on your set up. These things are really endlessly modifiable. A friend of the family had one of these when I was growing up and it was the first time as a child I can recall that cars seemed pretty fucking cool on an intuitive, primal level. They could be a hobby you tinkered with and customized to make a unique creation that reflected your personality, not merely a cookie-cutter conveyance to get you from point A to point B. This is the closest thing to a pod racer you’ll experience this side of Tatooine; it’s basically a seat strapped to a big-ass engine that skims the surface of the planet with incredible force. I tell you, riding around in this thing makes you want to dogfight with the Germans over the skies of London, it’s that kick-ass name like old WWII fighter planes had. The car weighs nothing, so the brute force power-to-weight ratio makes this thing roar with intensity just like the officially adopted nickname “Tiger” leads you to believe.


Coming This Week: Cowboys, Lesbians, and Vikings, Oh My

Every week I review Diamond's “New Releases” to determine what I’ll definitely be buying sight unseen, what I’m interested in enough to do a quick scan of at the LCS to see if it can win me over, and note any other items that catch my eye. Here’s a look…


The Lone Ranger #17 (Dynamite Entertainment): It’s nice to see this title get back up on the saddle after just putting out the third hardcover collection. It’s still a quietly confident, entertaining, and clever reimaging, courtesy of Brett Matthews, Sergio Cariello, and John Cassaday.

Detective Comics #855 (DC): It’s Greg Rucka and JH Williams III getting after it in a big way. This book is already eagerly anticipated and a joy to take in.

Northlanders #19 (DC/Vertigo): Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj. What more do you need to know? If you think it’s “just” about Vikings, then you’re just being silly.

Wednesday Comics #4 (DC): After seeing the panel at the con, I’ve got an even deeper appreciation for how innovative and challenging this has been for creators. Thanks again to Mark Chiarello for getting this off the ground, really looking forward to Pope’s Strange Adventures, Gibbons & Sook’s Kamandi, and what Neil Gaiman and Mike Allred have up their sleeves for Metamorpho. Allred said to be on the lookout for a full page periodic table of elements before it’s all said and done(!)


Fear Agent #27 (Dark Horse): Oh, is this title still being published? I tuned out an arc or two back. I also heard that Rick Remender has put the series of mini-series on indefinite hiatus to do… other stuff.


Northlanders: Volume 2 TPB (DC/Vertigo): Had I not picked this up from Brian Wood at SDCC, I’d be all over it. The Ryan Kelly arc is right where my LCS started getting unpredictable, so there’s actually new material in here (for me) that I’m looking forward to. Random aside, but has anyone else noticed the overly descriptive adjectives and use of banner laden lingo in the solicited titles? DC’s not so bad with just a Blackest Night this or Final Crisis that, but nearly half of Marvel’s offerings are prefaced with Civil War something, Dark Reign so and so, Marvel Master Works hoo-ha, Essential somebody, Ultimate something, or War of Kings event shenanigans. Kind of annoying. What happened to just being able to buy something called "X-Men," "Young Avengers," or "Hawkeye" without all of the superfluous words and shit all over it? Are audiences’ attention spans really that slack that we have to tell them what’s going on in a book with these story descriptions before they’ll crack it open or buy it?

San Diego Comic Con 2009: Once More Unto The Breach, Dear Friends

I went just two days this year, Friday and Saturday, and overall it turned out to be a good convention. Not as great as 2007, but much better than 2008. Sure, there were still plenty of things that aggravated me, namely the insane volume of people (I really hate crowds), the stupidity of the lines, flaky creators who disappeared from their booths (there’s a difference between “5 minutes” and an hour and 15 minutes, people), and my general disdain for things not having to do with comics. The lines are usually ridiculous, but this year they seemed to take it to a new level of incoherence. Jaime from SoCal Comics probably summed it up the best. “These people are so stupid; they don’t even know what they’re in line for.” There were about 300 people in a line in front of his booth. He’d asked 4 of them what they were in line for and not a single one could tell him, they just followed the crowd hoping for something free. Turned out it was a free Twilight book, but it’s silly they didn’t know. Not to mention the fact that they were blocking access to his booth for the better part of an hour; this is in the Silver Age section!

The rampant sense of consumerism also sickens me. There were so many people racing around trying to get their limited edition Han & Luke bullshit from Sideshow Collectibles or Orange Green Lantern whatever the fuck ever figures. I overheard one bloke explaining that you had to go to one line and enter a drawing to get a ticket and then if you got a certain ticket you could redeem it in this entirely different other area for another thing that let you go to this other place where you could fight the crowd and only get two and then he would repeat this process over and over until he got all the colored figures and then he could keep one set for himself and then he could sell one on eBay and then his friend said that… Now I’m all for a bit of the hustler mentality. My parents are antique dealers and they hustle. I’ve been with them in the bowels of Philadelphia as they scour some old lady’s attic discovering an oil painting from the 1800’s that they then turn at a high end auction at Sotheby’s in New York. That’s hustling. But there’s a world of difference between that and getting your retarded Doctor Who action figures and hawking them online. That’s just manufactured demand. From a financial perspective, I actually only spent $208 this year, which is nothing for me. Two years ago, believe it or not, I actually spent 10 times that amount.

I think the biggest lesson I was reminded of this year was that San Diego Con is a humongous place, you will never see everything, and every single person has a unique experience. Because it’s so big, there’s still room for you to be able to carve out your own individual con experience. You can eke out a con that works for you. If you’re smart about it and know what you want to buy, who you want to see, what friends you want to hook up with, or what panel you’d like to attend, you can be in and out and make it happen. Having attended too many panels last year, I tried to spend much more time in the Small Press Pavilion, Artist’s Alley, and the dealer’s floor in general. I basically stayed in a triangle around Oni Press, CBLDF, Top Shelf, and Fantagraphics, with occasional forays into the Small Press Pavilion, the Silver Age dealers, Artist’s Alley, or down to Avatar Press.

After some online exchanges, I finally met Brian Wood! He was gracious and complimentary about my reviews. We chatted briefly about his new DV8 book, some other projects in general, and the highs and lows in telling a long form story like DMZ. I picked up the first two Northlanders trades from him, since my LCS is so inconsistent with the single issues, and he gave me a copy of Public Domain #2. From there, I met up with Ryan Claytor from Elephant Eater Comics. I learned about a new gig he’s got in the works, it’s not even my place to say, but I’m proud of the guy. He’s living his dream, teaching comics at the collegiate level and cranking out self-published work. He’s going to be the next Scott McCloud; the guy from our generation who teaches people about the medium with wit, style, and insight. I picked up his latest autobio book And Then One Day #7, along with his latest 24 hour comic, The Machinist. Another highlight for this year was finally meeting Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten after much online correspondence. I met up with them during their signing at the Oni Press booth and picked up my copy of Wasteland: The Apocalyptic Edition: Volume 1 along with Wasteland #25 (I swear I think I have the only copy known to exist in San Diego County). It was just an exuberant meeting. We’ve chatted online numerous times and believe me, having worked at the largest networking company in the world for 11 years, I have a deep understanding of how the interwebs has empowered voices and revolutionized the communication paradigm, but there’s nothing like a good old fashioned handshake and looking someone in the eye as you tell them how much you respect their work. They too were gracious and complimentary about the reviews and there was a real sense of genuine appreciation that was flowing back and forth.

After those meet and greets, I headed into the Silver Age area and picked up a copy of Strange Tales #120 from a dealer from New York. This is the first team up between Iceman and Human Torch from 1964 and I’ve been looking for a clean copy of this book for years, ever since I sold the copy I used to own and regretted it ever since. I really enjoyed attending the Wednesday Comics Panel moderated by Editor Mark Chiarello, who delivered SOLO to us a couple years ago. Paul Pope characterized the process of creating for this project as “brutal and elegant” comics. He said that the format forced you to eliminate the superfluous, which was extremely difficult, but ultimately yielded astounding results. He further explained that from his experiences working for Kodansha, it felt like the opposite of manga in a way. Manga can give you a decompressed 40 page fight scene, but Wednesday Comics forces you to pack the contents of an entire issue into just one page. It was also great to see everyone, including Paul Pope and Dave Gibbons, lavish so much praise on Ryan Sook, who’s really turning in the best stuff of his career here. Gibbons explained that doing Kamandi was a treat, he had the Hal Foster Prince Valiant in his head, along with Kirby’s The Demon, which he felt was just Kirby riffing on Prince Valiant. I met up with Jason Crowe, a friend from the Bay Area, and sold him my copy of Asterios Polyp. We discussed him doing some more reviews for 13 Minutes, perhaps Asterios Polyp itself or even the Berlin trades from Drawn & Quarterly.

The next day I spent some time in the Silver Age area, looking for a few key books that I’m still interested in, including Uncanny X-Men #168, Uncanny X-Men #129, Fantastic Four #10, Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD #7, etc. I checked out the V panel, where they screened the pilot episode of this reimaging of an 80’s cult favorite ala the recent Battlestar Galactica. A decent first episode, though there were some wonky acting bits and very predictable moments, it leveraged 9/11 paranoia in a great way and touched on some hot button social triggers like universal health care. It was great to see Morena Baccarin, Alan Tudyk, Scott Wolf, and Morris Chestnut discuss the project. I met up with Tim Goodyear, another friend from the Bay Area who now lives in Portland, and works with the Sparkplug Comics crew. I gave Tim a script to work on and picked up Reich #5 and 6 from Elijah Brubaker. Tim threw in a free copy of an interesting little book called Sausage Hand from his Teenage Dinosaur imprint. I spent some time at the Avatar Press booth looking into some Warren Ellis junk, and then headed over to Top Shelf to chat with Matt Kindt. I crossed the way and picked up I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! from Fantagraphics. I thought it was silly that by Saturday morning, they’d already sold out of the follow up You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! While it’s nice to see the high demand for this great book, you’d think the publisher would come plenty stocked with a book that just came out that very week. Generally speaking, I like picking up books directly from the creative team or publisher, but I was forced to buy it from Comic Relief around the corner. I chatted briefly with Nathan Fox in Artist’s Alley and then suddenly realized that I’d completed all of my goals for the con by about 4pm on Saturday.

Overall, it was generally easy to navigate in terms of spatial relationships, since it’s for the most part the same people in the same places. Some people I encountered seemed to have a pretty sour attitude about the recession. While dealers seemed ready to wheel and deal, often dropping the price without me even asking, my observation was that the middle ground was being eliminated. Meaning that you could find deals on low grade books and numerous tables with 50% off trades… or you could find ultra high end CGC books holding their prices steadily – with nothing in between. I didn’t miss not being at the con on Sunday. I sat at home with a cold drink, my daughter in my lap, and watched about 3 hours worth of coverage on G4TV’s Attack of the Show, which was great. Not only was it more relaxed, but I didn’t have to inhale fanboy funk (would it be crass to suggest a booth selling deodorant at the con? I think I’d either make a ton of money or… hrmm, perhaps not a single dollar). I saw decent interviews with Ian Sattler, Joe Quesada, and Jon Favreau, and where else can you see Olivia Munn dressed up as Emma Frost fondling Kevin Pereira’s furry testicles?

For the completists, here’s what came home;

Free Crap:
Top Shelf 2009 Catalog
Athena #2 (A.M. Works)
Some New Kind of Slaughter #1 (ASP)
Dark Horse Preview Book 2009
The Talisman #0 (Del Rey Books)
The Last Days of American Crime Preview (Radical)
Wildstorm Universe #0 (DC)
The New Avengers #54 (Marvel)
The Engineer #1 (ASP)
Primordia #1 (ASP)
Killing Pickman #1 (ASP)
Awakening #1, 2, 3 (ASP)
Absolution #0 (Avatar Press)
The Comics Journal #269 (Fantagraphics)
Comic Strip Masterpieces #1 (Fantagraphics)
Fantagraphics Books Catalog: Spring/Summer 2009
The Dark Hunters: Volume 1 (St. Martin’s Griffin)
IDW Coming Attractions: The Hunter
IDW 2009 Catalog
Hybrid Bastards! #1, 2 (ASP)
Okko: Cycle of Earth #1 (ASP)
Okko: Cycle of Water #2, 3, 4 (ASP)
The Killer #2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 (ASP)
The Secret History #1, 3, 4 (ASP)
Entertainment Weekly #1057

Purchased Items:
And Then One Day #7 (Elephant Eater)
The Machinist #1 (Elephant Eater)
Northlanders: Volume 1 TPB (DC/Vertigo)
Northlanders: Volume 2 TPB (DC/Vertigo)
Public Domain #2 (Brian Wood)
Wasteland: Apocalyptic Edition: Volume 1 (Oni Press)
Wasteland #25 (Oni Press)
Strange Tales #120 (Marvel)
Uncanny X-Men #168 (Marvel)
Reich #5, 6 (Sparkplug Comics)
Sausage Hand (Teenage Dinosaur & Sparkplug Comics)
I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! (Fantagraphics)
You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! (Fantagraphics)
Freakangels: Volume 1 (Avatar Press)
Freakangels: Volume 2 (Avatar Press)

Cars I've Owned (Part 8 of 14)

2007 Mercedes-Benz C230 Sport
2008 to Present
Aka: “The Current Ride”

Let it be known that I still consider myself a BMW guy through and through (though loyalists will cry traitor at the mere mention of Mercedes, I’d have been better off buying an Audi, Porsche, hell, anything but a Benz), but I really wanted to try something new. It was hard not to feel as if Bimmers had been cursed ever since the 320is exploded on me. For the same money, I would have ended up with a used 5-series or something, so these new C-class cars started to catch my eye because of the price point. Truth be told, BMW’s also started to feel passé, I feel like I was into them about 5 to 10 years before they really became popular. I mean, everyone’s got one now, and unless you have an M car or something really classic and special, they feel very pedestrian to me. I had really grown into the community too, belonging to the BMW Car Club of America (San Francisco – Golden Gate Chapter), going to Bavarian Autosport in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, knowing the guys at A&E Performance in Campbell, hanging out at Dinan Engineering in Mountain View, visiting 2002 Haus in San Luis Obispo, and even haggling with the Bimmer Brothers (once came really close to swapping the 318ti straight across for either a 1988 E28 M5 that needed some interior work or a 1992 850i, my choice), and sort of miss it all. I really don’t think I’m an MBZ kinda’ guy; there are days I love it and it seems to suit my lifestyle at the moment – and then days I feel like a pretentious idiot. But so far, the Benz itself has been a good car. I’ve managed to avoid door dings for a year and a half in a major metropolitan area. The leather interior is still pristine, but there are a couple of minor annoyances. The AC system seems to have a mind of its own. About once every two weeks, the AC will simply turn off all by itself for about 30 seconds. It doesn’t matter what you do, which buttons you press or dials you spin, it just comes back on when it feels like it. The huge cross-drilled brake rotors in the front can stop on a dime, but they also make a hellacious amount of brake dust so it’s impossible to keep the car clean looking for more than a week or so. The “Sport” version of the C230 has an AMG package on it, marking the last year of this body style. I’ve got the slightly larger engine, a 2.5 liter DOHC V6, the ground effects kits, rear deck lid spoiler, charcoal bird’s eye maple carbon fiber trim, the AMG exhaust system, and the larger deep set wheels. Now, I love the look of the wheels, but the spokes stick out like the knuckles of a ham-fisted ogre clamboring up Jack’s Beanstalk. I can either stay 2 feet away from curbs when I’m parking (I just can’t seem to judge distance in this car) or risk grinding them. I’ve actually ground the wheels twice so that I have two little inch long scrapes on the wheels. There’s just nothing as horrible as that crunching sound of metal against cement curb. *Shudder* The car is pretty fast though, it loves the power band coming out of 3,500rpm and that comes in handy when I have to get on the Interstate 5 onramp and need to dust a Porsche Boxster or those twits in their Acura’s in the process. It loves running at high speeds and high rpm. I did get a really good deal on the car. Since it was a 2007 model that I bought very early in 2008, the dealer was extremely motivated to get it off the lot, especially since the new C300 models were already out. I saved about 30% on price because of this. As for mileage, they claim it’s in the high 20’s, but I swear if I redline it through the 6-speed tranny, I can watch it slurp down a quarter tank of gas right before my eyes, so I think their estimate may be overly optimistic. I do have to say that Mercedes-Benz Customer Service is unparalleled. Routine service is only at 13,000 mile intervals, and when I pull into the dealer they’re right there with a manager, a tech, a donut, a coffee, a loaner car, a smile, and articulate what exactly they’ll be doing. They call and keep me updated. I’m in and out, never with any hassle, warrantee doing what it’s supposed to. Things happen how they say they’ll happen when they say they’ll happen and they comp me on all kinds of shit. The prices can be a little steep, but hey, they call you on your birthday.

Cars I've Owned (Part 7 of 14)

1998 BMW 318ti
Owned: 2002 to 2008
Aka: “The Dearly Departed”

I returned to Sean’s used car lot (Stevens Creek European) where I’d originally purchased the M3 (hoping to manipulate chance like Longshot, that this move would be a harbinger of changed luck) and picked up this odd little car. Built from 1996 to 1998, the “ti” model sold horribly in the US, but was an interesting piece of work. Essentially it was a hatchback built on the E36 chassis. The “ti” designation was a nod to the old 2002’s and meant “touring injected,” not unlike the 2002tii which denoted “touring injected international” (don’t get me started on the naming nomenclature of Bayerische Motoren Werke). This last year of the production run had an ever-so-slightly larger 1.9 liter 4 cylinder, got about 35mpg, and was a perfectly economical commuter car. A smooth quiet ride, easy to park because of the shortened length, and loved to rev high on the freeway. I bought it with only like 30,000 miles on it and was able to keep it really low. Even in 2008, when it was 10 years old, it still had only 60,000 miles on it. It was the M-sport edition with the California package and was all tricked out. It had leather interior, the retractable canvas roof, sportronic transmission, ground effects kit, and the larger wheels and tires. This was a great little car. I didn’t do much in terms of mods, because I was frankly losing interest in cars in general by this point. I just added a K&N air filter, tinted the windows, and rigged up an iPod compatible Pioneer deck. I had it about 6 years and really appreciated its reliability and fuel efficiency. I was looking forward to driving it out until it died of natural causes one day. It wasn’t extremely fast, but handled incredibly well because of the low center of gravity and all of the weight from the hatchback glass being directly over the drive wheels making it stick in the corners. If I’d put the short block 6 cylinder in this like I wanted to eventually, and made it a custom 323ti like they released in Europe, it would have been a screamer – a total pocket rocket. I wasn’t crazy about the color, Hellrot Red (getting pulled over in dad’s red Porsche 911 enough times simply because it continually screamed “look at me!” basically soured me on red cars forever), but could have easily put 200,000 miles on this and gotten tons of value out of it. I was really bummed when blonde death reaper decided that talking on the phone with her friend about what color nail polish her boyfriend would rather look at while sucking on her toes was more important than watching where she was going and had to total my car instead. I have no problem with the “hands free” cell phone law in California; only wish they’d actually enforce it more aggressively.


7.22.09 Reviews

Wednesday Comics #3 (DC): Overall, the novelty of the trick format is wearing off and I’m cautiously fighting the feeling that this is going to degenerate into a pretty middling group of stories, with more low valleys than high peaks on the opposite ends of the bell curve. Batman still has strong characterization and is more crime/mystery oriented than outright superheroics, no surprise considering the creative team. Grade A. Kamandi is quickly growing to be my second favorite in the lot, with a vintage aesthetic courtesy or Ryan Sook and a modern sensibility and general sense of wonderment. Grade A. Superman is moving very slowly and I’m not really enjoying the brooding Kryptonian routine. Grade B-. Deadman comes with a stream of consciousness style of storytelling which is quite dull and doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. Grade C. Green Lantern still has a gorgeous mastery of visuals for the most part, but is hindered by Hal’s big nose and dorky clothes which feel like a misstep on characterization. Grade B+. Metamorpho walks a fine line and weaves all over it. The bottom strip that insinuates Metamorpho was once a more successful property than it ever actually was risks being too cute for its own good. Not a single thing happens in this big huge static image and lines like “So your expedition came a cropper, huh, Staggsy?” mean absolutely nothing to me. Grade B-. Teen Titans is a little more readable every issue, but feels inconsequential despite its fun tendency to meta-jab. Grade B-. Strange Adventures is still the standout for my money, feeling dense and full of story. Paul Pope’s design sense is evident in everything from Adam’s wisps of hair, to his interpretation of the Zeta Beam, to the spears holding him captive. Grade A+. Supergirl is its usual bout of harmless cute fun, drawn particularly well. Grade B. Metal Men seems to take a lot of abuse online, but I enjoy the fast pace, great art, and lighthearted Silver Age feel. It’s quite consistent with what it has to offer. DiDio’s dialogue is also not as bad as one might expect. Grade B. Wonder Woman has a running gag which seems to be her waking up (yes, it was all a dream) at the end of every strip. Yaaawwwwnnnnn. It’s not that I didn’t want to read it. It’s that I actually couldn’t. It was physically impossible. The font is disgusting and the monochromatic palette hurts my eyes. It actually gave me a headache. What I did instead was count the number of panels and words these people tried to cram in here. There are 48 panels cluttered on this page. There are 520 words shoved into those panels. By comparison with the preceding Metal Men strip (which seems fairly average in terms of panels and dialogue with a quick glance), it has only 9 panels and 155 words. I don’t know what a typical ratio is in a standard comic and I’m sure this experimental format means all rules are off, but that seems very out of whack to me. Grade D. Sgt. Rock is all middle, but very pretty. Grade B. Flash and Iris West keep up their straightforward two for one fun. Grade B. Demon & Catwoman is still happening, only in a slightly more boring fashion. Grade B-. Hawkman comes with a big plot development and is worth it for Baker’s crisp art alone. Grade A. I actually sat here and averaged all those grades out and it only came to a 75% utilizing the 4.0 grading scale with the letter grades, this issue earned 46 out of 60 possible points. That’s a flat C. It feels better than that due to the strips I like because, well I like them a lot more than I dislike the ones that fail, if that makes any sense, and the format will still score you some points. Let’s go with a generous Grade B.

X-Force #17 (Marvel): On one hand, it was really a smart move to limit the Messiah War to a 30+ hour time span as a storytelling tool. Coupled with the time travel element, it allowed the team to jump right back to where they were moments before the crossover began. On the other hand… while only a few hours passed in comic book time, out here in the real world months have passed and I really don’t remember what was going on with Boom Boom, Hellion, and Surge. I guess the Leper Queen had them? I guess she’s dead now? I do like the fact that this book isn’t afraid of depicting brutal, bloody violence. It shows some bold swagger with a mainstream X property. But then it strays back into very familiar territory with the MRD – Mutant Response Division – another tired government program designed to reign in the X-gene active demographic. We’ve seen this before quite a few times and I believe that Craig Kyle and Chris Yost are slightly better writers than that, to have to return to this popular well again. Mike Choi and Sonia Oback’s art isn’t my favorite, but I will admit it’s slowly getting better. It’s about 80% perfectly serviceable, with about 20% of the shots bearing awkward poses and disproportionate body parts. I’m pretty close to dropping this title, but it didn’t seem like there was anything else to buy this week. What a ringing endorsement. Grade B.


Cars I've Owned (Part 6 of 14)

1992 BMW 325i
Owned: 2002 to 2002
Aka: “The Lemon”

After the 320is self-destructed on me, I needed a car quickly and got a good deal on this. Or so I thought. It seemed I was developing a string of bad luck here. After intermittent engine loping at idle and some odd cold starts, eventual inspection by A&E, and investigation through DMV, I found out that someone had done (err, make that attempted) a piss poor engine swap with a newer E36 engine, the drive train wouldn’t mate properly to the older computer’s engine management system, the wiring harness looked like a labyrinth of disgruntled spaghetti, and long story short – the car was basically sold illegally. I consulted with a really first rate lemon law lawyer and threatened a lawsuit to get the silly dealer (later exposed in the San Jose Mercury News for numerous shady deals like this) to buy it back from me no questions asked, including the price I paid, money for the repairs which went nowhere, and all of my time and effort, including the legal fees. It all worked out in the end, but it was such a big hassle. The only personal memory I have of this car during the hot second I owned it is riding with my old boss David to a High Tech Crime Investigators Association (HTCIA) meeting one afternoon, up the street from our employer Cisco Systems, at Lucent Technologies (random memories here) and him saying “dang, this car’s pretty fast.” I didn’t have the car for long at all and there was certainly no love lost. It woulda’ just been a regular ol’ 3 series anyway. Boring.

Cars I've Owned (Part 5 of 14)

1981 BMW 320is
Owned: 2001 to 2001
Aka: “The Fling”

The “is” variant on the E21 chassis was an ultra-rare factory model that came with Recaro seats, a sport steering wheel, limited slip differential on the transmission, basket weave style wheels, and a front air dam. Needing just a reliable commuter car, I picked this up for a good price and was expecting what I got out of the ‘82 that had been so good to me. Unfortunately, this little romance didn’t last very long. I owned it for less than a year, just a few months actually. After dumping some money into it to get it repainted and about $2,000 in misc. mechanical repairs, one afternoon without even doing anything abnormal I simultaneously snapped the throttle cable and blew the engine, coasting into a Baja Fresh parking lot near the old Tower Records on Bascom Avenue in San Jose (what? the details of painful memories stick with you). Fucking cars. This was probably karma coming around for the extraordinarily, unnaturally long life the ’82 had. Like one of Neil Gaiman’s Endless, this was “Brief Lives” indeed. Mine was Polaris Silver, a really choice color, but the pic is a white one which best demonstrates some of the differences between the regular 320i and the “is” models. A&E Performance in Campbell offered to buy and install a crated new engine for a very reasonable price, but I felt like this was a big investment for an unknown chassis and passed, just frustrated as hell. I ended up selling old girl for like $500 to a friend of a friend who was a mechanic to be dismantled as a parts car.


Coming This Week: San Diego On The Brain, Phonomancer Delight, and X-Maybe

Every week I review Diamond's “New Releases” to determine what I’ll definitely be buying sight unseen, what I’m interested in enough to do a quick scan of at the LCS to see if it can win me over, and note any other items that catch my eye. Here’s a look…


Wednesday Comics #3 (DC): I’m really looking to the next couple of issues to see if the stories materialize into something meaningful or if this is all just an academic exercise fueled by my longing for Paul Pope’s pretty pictures.

Invincible Iron Man #14 (Marvel): Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca keep plugging away at one of the best comics Marvel is currently managing to publish.


Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #4 (Image): If this hums with the same sort of glee that last issue did, it will end up getting purchased.

X-Force #17 (Marvel): Sigh. I’m so on the fence with this book. I sort of enjoy it when it’s there, but I don’t think I’d miss it if it were to quietly slip away in the night.


While I applaud the price point of 100 Bullets: Vertigo Crime Sampler #1 (DC/Vertigo), I already own the contents of 100 Bullets #1 and I just saw a preview of Ian Rankin’s Dark Entries for free in DMZ #43, so why would I spend a dollar just for a couple pages of Filthy Rich? Is that really all there is in this issue? Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance #3 (DC) would have been bought if I hadn’t been soured by the change in artists on the second issue. Blade of the Immortal: Volume 21 (Dark Horse) made me say “wow.” Is it already on Volume 21?! I owned about the first 8 volumes or so at one point, and then just sold them off for space. If I can find these cheap this week, maybe I’ll get caught up. Pleasantly surprised to see Flight: Volume 6 already out, but is anyone still paying attention to this? I bought the first two or something and then tuned out. Mouse Guard HC Volume 2: Winter 1152 (Archaia) is sure to be a pretty package and I’ve only read an issue or two of this second series so I’m looking forward to reading the complete content for the first time, but I might as well just get it signed from David Petersen at this point. Along those lines, You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation! looks like mad fun as it completes the Paul Karasik helmed Fletcher Hanks extravaganza, but I’m hoping I can get some sort of package deal directly from Fantagraphics by buying it along with I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets! Overall, it seems like a very small week, typical for this time of year due to that little get together happening down at the convention center in a couple of days.

Cars I've Owned (Part 4 of 14)

2001 Nissan Pathfinder LE
Owned: 2001 to Present
Aka: “The Reliable One”

In preparation for taking another promotion which entailed a job rotation in Boston for a year, I actually traded in the M3 (no!) on this new SUV (cry!). I still own it and it has admittedly been a really good car, taking the brunt of several moves and has always held up without any problems at all. It’s the top of the line LE model, with the 3.5 liter V6, premium leather, Bose stereo, and push button 4 wheel drive system. It’s been extremely versatile. It can be the worker bee that I mentioned, used to haul things like a truck - there’s tons of storage room, especially when you fold down the rear seats. I’ve actually taken it off-roading in the mud, snow, sand, deep water, and rocky inclines – and have never managed to get into trouble. It works for a night out on the town, seating 4 adults comfortably. I’ve taken it camping, actually using the roof rack. It works with car seats. I’ve taken it to Yosemite and many trips back and forth from the Bay Area to SoCal. It’s been up to Portland. It really just does it all. There’s a lotta’ power, a lotta’ torque, it’s quick off the line, and very stable at high speeds for the long cruises. Very recently, the CD player jammed and stopped working. And just this past weekend, the electric motor for the seat adjustment on the driver’s side seems to have gone kaput, but for an 8 year old ride with like 150,000 very tough miles on it, I’m not complaining. I know what the thing’s been through. I never considered myself a Japanese car guy, but I gotta’ say Nissan’s proven to be a good brand. When I’m at the dealer getting routine service, I frequently find myself eyeing the Z or the Altima Hybrids, knowing that Nissan makes a good product. They’re not my dream cars or anything, but they build a solid, reliable, cost effective product. Mine looks exactly like the pic.


Cars I've Owned (Part 3 of 14)

1995 BMW M3
Owned: 2000 to 2001
Aka: “The Favorite”

This was the car I’d always wanted in the color I always wanted. Sure, it was available in black, white, red, silver, blue, etc., but only one was Dakar Yellow, named after the fabled Paris-Dakar Rally. Essentially, this was the perfect race car right out of the box. It was lightning fast and handled extremely well, without looking like a douched-out boy racer, being very well mannered in the process. It was your basic wolf in sheep’s clothing, a “sleeper” like my street racing pal Rafael used to say. Mechanically, it was basically perfection. BMW took their normally aspirated 3.0 liter inline 6-cylinder and, like Prospero waving a wand on his little island, somehow magically squeezed out 295hp. The only thing I did to this was add a K&N air filter to help it breathe a little better (easiest, most cost effective way to enhance performance without monkeying too much with the engine is to make a car breathe better, colder air inducted as fast as possible, with expelled exhaust pulled out the back end as efficiently as possible) and Bavarian Autosport strut tower braces in the front and rear bays to give the tires a little more bite when cornering hard and to eliminate some minor body flex. Despite my love of all things BMW Motorsport Division, there’s just not much else to say here. If you know about M cars, then you know. If you don’t know about M cars, it’s not something I can explain. They’re a breed apart, wicked fast, and totally sought after. The elite. The perfect balance of class and performance. There’s just nothing like the sound of that engine spooling up around 4,000rpm, delighting the senses, and growling adamantly as you chirp the tires going into 3rd gear. It handled like a dream; I tried hard, but usually I couldn’t get the rear wheels to break loose without doing something totally stupid and unnatural. Being an M car in a wild color, it felt a bit exotic; I got a lot of looks and thumbs up (heck, I remember little kids pointing frantically) from other drivers going over the Altamont Pass from San Francisco to the Central Valley at 100mph. The deep leather seats wrapped around you like you were in the cockpit of an F-16 fighter. This was the E36 chassis, which was the first year that the M3 returned after its initial run on the E30 chassis from 1988 to 1991. The one pictured is identical to mine.

Cars I've Owned (Part 2 of 14)

1998 Volkswagen Jetta GLS
Owned: 1998 to 2000
Aka: “The Land Speeder”

After a promotion at work (and that frickin’ dongle on the 320 taunting me for years), I decided that I wanted a brand new car. I couldn’t quite afford the new Bimmer I wanted just yet (more on those M cars later), so I decided to purchase “the poor man’s 3-series,” as my friend Grant called it. VW was making a nice GLX version, during this last year of this body style, that had cooler wheels, a rear deck lid spoiler, leather interior, and a very peppy V6. I really liked the dark blue on the supple tan leather interior that I test drove, but for some reason I bought the slightly less expensive GLS. Though my friend Lawrence referred to this as the “Giampaoli Land Speeder,” the GLS was basically the top of the line 4 cylinder, and I think it was a 2.0 liter (don’t remember, don’t care). This car was basically a piece of shit; I vowed never to buy another VW product after my experience with this. I had friends that would trick out their GTI’s and swore by them, but dude. I don't know if this was the result of VW plants beginning to assemble these in Mexico or what, but I only owned it for about two years and in that time, 3 of the 4 power window motors failed, the power locks failed due to a weird configuration of the hydraulic lines, and the front wheel drive not only understeered like a bitch, but never seemed to hold an alignment for more than a month or two, and ultimately developed a subtle shimmy. This is on a brand new car! The Jetta did have a quick 5-speed that shifted crisply (if a bit tinny sounding nearing redline), but the front wheel drive system made it handle like a wet turd; the back end would jump off the rails and there was no such thing as classic drop throttle oversteer in this front wheel drive car. Rather than having enough power to pull out of a slide, the front tires would turn sideways and push with wicked understeer as the heavy ass end would dance around in circles like a drunken horny elephant attacking your grandma at her 100th birthday party. Yes, it was a mess. It did witness one memorable trip to Vegas with Sean and Jaydee (asleep in the back seat the entire way, you bitch) where we ended up throwing a football around on the side of the road for an hour near Needles or some fucking place, along with a hundred other cars that’d been stopped since the road was shut down due to a tanker crash/spill or some damn thing, but that’s about it. Mine was black on gray cloth, exactly like this picture. I think it’s funny that the picture I found is cropped poorly and there’s a big dent on the wheel arch, because emotionally that’s how I felt about mine. I knew this wasn’t for me long term. As soon as I could afford it, I traded it in on…


Cars I've Owned (Part 1 of 14)

Oh… you didn’t think comics were my only interest did you?

The other day I mentioned casually to a couple friends that I’d owned 5 BMW’s and that led to a conversation and an eventual request, nay – a challenge, to chronicle each of them. I’ll be focusing on the chronology that includes the (mostly) European stuff, not the muscle cars or motorcycles that snuck in there, so blame Sean and David if you don’t like this series of posts.

1982 BMW 320i
Owned: 1990 to 1998
Aka: “The Workhorse”

This car was so named because I put 243,000 miles on the original engine, with nothing more than changing the oil religiously every 3,000 miles and replacing a blown water pump that ran me around $60 installed. That’s not to say the E21 chassis, first generation 3-series, built from 1977 to 1982, wasn’t without its quirks. The thing would start to overheat if it sat at idle in traffic for more than 5 minutes, but I quickly learned how to feather the throttle to hold it steady. Using my left foot to depress the clutch, I could heel-toe the brake and gas pedal simultaneously with my right foot and that did the trick. Something comical to all of my friends was the in-dash emergency flasher button, which had a profound design flaw. It was in the off position when it was depressed, relying on two small plastic tabs to keep it in that position. These tabs were quite brittle and inevitably failed every couple of years and snapped off, so my emergency flashers would instantly pop on while driving. The only way to turn them off was to a) pull over, pop the hood, pop the fuse box cover, and remove the fuse which also killed all of the turn signals and lights, or b) the easier method, pull the dongle of wires out of the dash that trailed like an umbilical cord behind the flasher unit and simply unplug it. So, I usually just rode around with the dongle sticking out of the dash an inch or so, so that I could quickly remove the unit when it failed. This was a running joke with my friends; I ended up replacing it about 3 times over the life of the car, for about $50 a pop. This was a true California car, making many road trips to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Lake Tahoe, all over the San Francisco Bay Area, over the Highway 17 hill to Santa Cruz, down the coast to San Luis Obispo, up to Napa Valley, and all over the San Joaquin Valley. It never stranded me anywhere; the closest I came was a dead battery pulling out of LA one time, but I was able to limp it all the way home to San Jose, never once stopping for gas. After all the mods, the thing would get close to 40mpg on the open highway. The 320 did not like the wet. It would get silly just looking at rain. I spent a couple winters sliding around the snow and getting winched out of drifts by friends with Jeeps. I learned to drive this car in the sweeping back road “s” curves of the Gold Country and could push it to its limits, hanging the ass end out with a little oversteer and snapping it back with a throttle tap. I modified the shit out of it. Let’s see… Bavarian Autosport front air dam, Racing Dynamics lowering springs, Bilstein shocks, Suspension Techniques front and rear anti-sway bars with polyurethane bushings, Ansa exhaust system, K&N air filter, electronic ignition, an oversized radiator to correct the overheating problem, relocated the battery to the trunk for better weight distribution, tinted the windows, tricked out an Alpine stereo, and threw in a Momo steering wheel and shit knob, with aluminum racing pedals (including a “dead” pedal). These cars came stock with silly little 13 inch lawnmower wheels, so I upgraded to 15 inch (the biggest you could get with spacers, without doing some serious body work on the fender rolls) wheels with some very sticky (and much wider) Dunlop tires. It only had like 130hp, but in a car that ended up weighing a little over 2,000 pounds, the 5-speed was quick enough and it handled amazingly well with all of the suspension work. Mine was black on black leather like the vintage ad up top, but this silver one below probably best represents what mine looked like.

"Let's Have Fun This Beat Is Sick"

Brian Wood writing DV8 at Wildstorm? Hell yeah! Tons of potential.

7.15.09 Reviews (Part 2 of 2)

The Killer #9 (Archaia): Ok, so it’s been almost a year since the last issue. Let’s get that out of the way. Typically I’d knock off some points for that, but there are some books (Planetary, All Star Superman, etc.) that are so good they can basically overcome the ridiculousness of the delays between the issues with their (eventual) sheer presence. The Killer is such a book. For art, you wait. It’s ready when it’s ready. The cold, clinical detachment to a profession on display here is not unlike the opening scenes of the John Cusack film Grosse Point Blank. I like the notion of the protagonist finding some quiet time to think things through and figure out what it all means. The Killer is pretty unique because it’s so very introspective about violence, examining the reasons behind its necessity, it’s not a glamorized gratuitous thrill ride. Was it Asimov who said “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent?” That just popped into my head. The art is still fantastic. Rachel Cartier’s hair flinging around in the bedroom makes us feel exactly like we’re supposed to. The hues match the story tonally, racy reds or quiet blues, if a little obvious in places. Archaia has returned with great production quality (feel that glossy paper) for an important book about sex and violence doing a seductive dance. A lot of the plot is revealed here, and it feels like we’re gearing up for more death and one final job, asking the question – what toll will this all take? Will The Killer be able to go back underground into the darkness and, as he wishes, “deal with life more than with death.” Still one of my favorite series in the last couple of years. Grade A.

Wednesday Comics #2 (DC): Let me do this lightning round style… Batman is noirish and contains some interesting social class commentary. Batman doesn’t appear. There’s still no “to be continued” blurb. Is that because you don’t want to see one on every page when it’s collected? Can’t they be edited out? The other stories have them. Confused. The hook is the mystery itself. Kamandi contains very rich art. Prince Tuftan reminds me of Tawny the Tiger. A great hook is set in motion with the journey of the heroes. Superman comes with a very rough jump cut from last issue. Unexpected to see Batman. The hook is Supes seeking consoling around his isolation(?). I don’t recall the last strip of Deadman beyond his character intro. What’s the story here? What’s the hook? He’s just… doing stuff. Green Lantern has beautiful energetic art. Hal truly feels like an intergalactic cop. Great colors, great action, the great hook of a villain’s origin(?). Metamorpho has an immaculate looking single page, but is extremely light on story with no real hook. The tongue in cheek strip at the bottom felt too smart by half. Teen Titans was improved over the first issue, but still cluttered and washed out on coloring. Robin’s domino mask is… two black circles? Galloway’s art is a liability, but the writing is getting clever. Robin loosely referring to Nightwing (not in continuity I guess, huh?) as his older brother was cute. “Thanks Nightwing. Dick.” That’s funny. Strange Adventures still very strong. Love the circular panel with Alanna. The story is progressing fast with much happening between panels. They fight, they're captured, they’re brought before their captor, they’re offered a deal. Very compressed. Kooky Silver Age dialogue: “He has the strength of ten Paladons.” Supergirl is so convincing thanks to Amanda Conner’s expressive art. The story doesn’t interest me in the slightest, but I love looking at those emotive faces and great perspective shots. Metal Men flies in with a litany of lousy one-liners, but the art is still fantastic with lots of energy. I’m just not feeling Wonder Woman at all. I get that it’s supposed to be homage to Little Nemo in Slumberland and all, but the monochromatic panels of aqua and maroon are dense, washed out, and lifeless. Winsor McCay’s panels breathed with life and a feeling of forward motion. The panels are much too small, too claustrophobic on the page, and everything feels too dense. The creative team is trying to cram 3 or 4 pages worth of material onto a single page. Words take up half the space of some of the panels. And I don’t want to read that font anyway. It actually hurts my eyes and pushes me away from the page. I can’t engage with this strip at all, it’s so off-putting. Sgt. Rock is classic Kubert, just look at that panel with the German officer seen through the rain soaked window. That’s impressive. I like how the two Flash strips are alternating back and forth. Demon & Catwoman now seems like an odd pairing. The story is very decompressed, Selena getting out of the room takes nearly the entire strip. Hawkman looks fantastic. He truly feels like an off-worlder. There’s so much detail in Baker’s fine line work and the composition of each panel. This may be the best Baker has ever looked(!). Overall, I’m still enjoying this, but I certainly hope the stories grow to be of some consequence and aren’t just the type of filler material you’d find in, well… a filler issue, a back up story, or an old school annual. Feels like a Grade A-.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? #1 (Boom!): As Warren Ellis points out in his essay, if all you know of Philip K. Dick involves Ridley Scott’s rendition of Blade Runner then well, you don’t know Dick. It seems that I’m required by law to mention PKD and this book in the same sentence as Blade Runner, and then bluster on to some other nonsense about him being some singular luminary in the sci-fi genre before I can review the actual book. With that aside, I’ll tell you that I enjoyed Boom! Studios adaptation of the “complete text” to “graphic form” as the book’s intro clarifies, but it’s not without some problems. That method of transference created some unique challenges, such as the odd text boxes that must now accompany the speech balloons in order to stay true to the original but fit into comic book framework. For example, Rick will say “Ever thought of selling your horse?” in a word balloon, and then the text box below it will come with a clunky “Rick asked” right behind it. While it’s interesting to note, in a way it defeats the duality of the medium. You just showed me Rick asking a question, and now you’re telling me he asked a question. These are interspersed throughout almost all of the dialogue in the book. The art is inconsistent. It ranges from being warm and inviting in the best parts, to clunky and off with the perspective angles in the worst. Generally speaking, it’s ok at depicting the end game of science winning the cultural war over religion and magic, a theme that permeates Dick’s work. It also feels like there are a few really rough jump cuts, from Deckard’s scenes to the Wilbur Mercer/John Isidore stuff, and I don’t remember the source material well enough to know if that was the case, but I assume so since this is a literal adaptation. Warren Ellis’ backmatter essay is an examination of the themes that PKD returned to time and time again in near countless novels and short stories. The essay is sprawling with ideas like only Ellis can (on his good days), and highlights some of Dick’s common riffs. There’s the eternal questions of: What’s human? What’s real? There’s the depiction of the slow death of the natural world, evident in the external (humans fervently clinging to real animals as fetishized items) and their own internal emotions slipping away, supplanted by programmable moods and planned emotional schedules. There’s the legislated affiliations with humankind. For $3.99, this did feel plenty dense and I think it’s a good value. I guess my thoughts seem to be falling right inline with many reviewers and I don’t feel like I have anything particularly interesting to say (scathing self-idictment? points for honesty?), so let’s get to it. The art is probably the biggest stumbling block, which detracts from the experience. It’s an interesting way to read a novel, which I’m ambivalent about. The essays are fantastic, which are really worth the price of admission alone. I didn’t think I’d be saying this, but I’ll probably be picking it up for those alone. The next one is by Matt Fraction and I’m anxious to see who else is lined up, we’re talking 24 issues here. And besides, who knows if they’ll be reprinted when/if this ever gets collected 2+ years down the road. Grade B+.


7.15.09 Reviews (Part 1 of 2)

Scalped #30 (DC/Vertigo): Jason Aaron opens with a Cheyenne story for this new arc, The Gnawing: Part 1 of 5, that sets the tone just right. It was great to catch up with Catcher and fun to see Bad Horse throwing around his weight in another county. I loved the surreal vibe as Catcher does his best Yoda/disappearing act/You Are The Chosen One speech, instructing “you’re Dashiell Bad Horse. You’re a drug addict and a Lakota warrior and an undercover agent for the FBI. You’ve been sent here to save us.” This arc looks to be about all the many things previously put into motion finally starting to come a’ calling. It touches deftly on two or three different story arcs that have preceded it, noting shenanigans with the grifter hustler that came through, Dash's relationship with Carol, Nitz's master plan, the Hmongs, etc. We get a rare look at Johnny Tongue doing a pissed off, Dennis Leary style tirade about prison sex that is hilarious, but also rings true, sounding like the way real people talk when they're all kinds of fired up. And Chief Red Crow fires right back. Heh. 'Nuff said. Nobody is doing this type of layered storytelling that builds with time better. You can feel the tension in every scene; why this hasn’t been optioned for a movie studio or by HBO for an ongoing series is a fucking mystery. Grade A+.

Punisher #7 (Marvel): I somehow missed this during my Diamond peruse, but here it is, the second ish with new artist Tan Eng Huat. The Hood gives ol' Frank Castle a good mindfuck this issue, with promises of erased sins, reunion with his family, and provides spot-on insight into Frank with lines like “you’ll kill because the ‘thing’ is all that’s left.” Mentions of a "186" or "Section 9" provide an authentic buzz to the dialogue. It's a great payoff to see how The Hood has really rattled Frank when he pulls some out of character mean and surly antics with his new partner. The loser villians self-aware observations about New York and “the nerds" winning the social war with the proliferation of computers was also well written. This issue was really full of psychological leanings, be it the true cause of Mirage’s disdain for women, the social pretense of Orwellian actions done in the name of freedom, or the taut G.W. Bridge scene. The only quibble I had is that if SHIELD satellites could truly "read DNA" as suggested, wouldn't they have known some things? Like who was a Skrull during the last big crossover? That Danny Rand filled in for Daredevil? That Clint Barton was masquerading as Ronin? This seems like a pretty big gaffe and something an editor should have caught. That aside, I enjoyed The Human Fly losing it, and this was further evidence that in the hands of a great writer like Remender, you can breathe new life into a bunch of lifeless characters. On board for next issue, which has an intriguing cover tease. Grade A-.

DMZ #43 (DC/Vertigo): Ryan Kelly partners with Brian Wood again, giving us the second ish of this short little run entitled "No Future." This story is full of emotional manipulation as one of many stories that quietly haunts the DMZ. I know I mentioned this last time, but Kelly’s ability to convey emotion, even behind the obscured shroud of a gas mask is impressive and gives a weighty emotional core to what would otherwise be just another brutal action scene in a comic book. I'm curious to see where Wood's going with this arc and how the protagonist will resolve his inner demons. The issue seemed to read really quickly, perhaps due to making room for the sneak peak at Ian Rankin’s Dark Entries (which looks to be a mixed bag of closed room murder and paranormal John Constantine bits). Grade A-.


Coming This Week: It’s Wednesday Again, Vertigo Takes Control, And The Long Lost Killer

Every week I review Diamond's “New Releases” to determine what I’ll definitely be buying sight unseen, what I’m interested in enough to do a quick scan of at the LCS to see if it can win me over, and note any other items that catch my eye. Here’s a look…


Scalped #30 (DC/Vertigo): Another installment, and beginning of a new story arc, of the best Vertigo book currently being published, courtesy of Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera.

DMZ #43 (DC/Vertigo): Yes, it’s a Vertigo kind of week.

Wednesday Comics #2 (DC): After the near universally lauded initial offering, this week should test the mettle of the sustainability of this format.

The Killer #9 (Archaia): The newly named Archaia, nee Archaia Studios Press (ASP), finally gets around to putting out the penultimate issue of this terrific series from Luc Jacamon & Matz.


It might be interesting to see how DC handles a prose preview in Fables #1: Peter & Max (DC/Vertigo) for a mere $1. After the lackluster contents of issues #0 and #1, I decided to forego Buck Rogers #2 (Dynamite Entertainment), but oh those Cassaday covers might convince me otherwise. Finally, we’re treated to another format of Alan Moore’s Lost Girls HC (Top Shelf).


What’s with all the reprints of the awful comics that came out recently? Red Robin #1: Second Printing (DC), New Mutants #2: Second Printing (Marvel), and X-Men Forever #1: Second Printing (Marvel), I’m talking to you. For $25, Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? HC (DC) doesn’t seem like a great deal, even though it does collect the Batman and Detective Comics two parter that initially ran, along with Secret Origins #36, Secret Origins: Special #1, and Batman: Black & White #2. I thought the Batman issue was solid, the Detective Comics wrap up a little less so; think this HC might be for die hard fans only. Blade Runner inspiration Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep #1 (Boom!) looks interesting in that Warren Ellis provides an end piece of some type and that it’s serialized over two years (this being issue 1 of 24), but I’m already tired of the looting of aged properties, ala Creepy #1 (Dark Horse) also this week.


Wasteland #25 Review: There’s No Such Thing As Painless Love

I’ll preface this by saying that I still don’t have a physical copy of the issue, thanks to one LCS who claims the shipment was mysteriously shorted (though the investigator in me finds that story suspect), and two others who just flat out didn’t order it because of their predilection toward peddling (only) Marvel and DC wares. Sigh. You’d think San Diego of all places would be home to some of the best shops in the nation, and while San Diegans are lucky in one respect to have quite a few to choose from, quantity certainly does not guarantee quality. It really does make me miss the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was literally surrounded geographically by good retailers, Lee’s Comics, The Isotope Lounge, Comix Experience, and Comic Relief just to name a few favorites spread from the South Bay, to The City, to the East Bay for anyone who might wish to track them down. It appears I’ll have to wait until the San Diego Con to actually purchase a copy, which I’ll most certainly do. At this point, I’d rather hand the money over directly to Oni or Antony and Chris anyway, rather than reward these pitiful retailing practices. Sure, this is a paltry act of rebellion, but it’s the principle you know! In the interim, Antony Johnston was kind enough to send me a PDF copy of the book and I couldn’t resist sharing a few thoughts as the calendar ticks down toward the end of the month. Without further ado…

Wasteland #25 (Oni Press): Aside from the obvious delight of hitting the quarter century mark with a full color issue, one of the things I noticed the most was the utter lack of exposition to be found in this title. Johnston’s story information is perfectly laced into the dialogue, and Chris backs it all up with plush and radiant pages capable of relaying the requisite emotional content. This approach to scripting rewards the faithful and observant readers, it doesn’t insult our intelligence and is a more… mature method of storytelling, I guess is what I want to say. The creative team makes an assumption that their audience possesses a basic level of inductive and deductive reasoning skills, pop culture awareness and genre sensibility, and doesn’t need everything spelled out for them like Those Other Comic Books. A great example of the expositional void is the line “Waters Meet. Halfway to sun-damned nowhere.” This is the perfectly pejorative, condescending type of thing we’d expect Sultan Ameer to say, but it works so well because it happens completely organically. A lesser writer would have plunked down a caption box that said: “Nearing the town of Waters Meet,” and then had their characters blather on about what a podunk, middle of nowhere place it was and blah, blah, blah. Johnston’s way is simpler and more elegant. Another example of crisp characterization is how the wives disdain for him comes off with lines about the Sultan, like the only thing he knows “about women is which entrance to use.” For their long awaited anniversary issue, Johnston and Mitten provide a historical tale of Sultan Ameer, trader to the core, and his unlikely association with Michael, in his friendlier and slightly more emotive days. I think there are some oblique clues here about Michael’s past (his level of prior paramilitary training in instructing the other guards perhaps) and certainly “Michael the Lost” going “Nowhere” (proper noun maybe?) is a deliberate drop that I haven’t quite cracked. If all great stories rely on a single core conceit, this one circles around loyalty and betrayal and hones in on how divisive men can become when a woman is involved. Again, the guys show off their innate ability to world-build, providing another example of the many diverse harsh realities that inhabit Wasteland. Even though I was provided a relatively low res PDF, it’s obvious that Mitten has a well thought-out sense of color application, it’s there in the beady suspicious eyes of Sultan Ameer, the thematic pairing of hushed maroon earth tones, eye popping crisp yellows to emphasize the sun, vibrant green near water’s edge, passionate crimson during arguments, dark blue for hidden quiet places, or an ethereal late night foggy return to the caravan. He really is an “artist” in the classic sense of the word, he shows off his mastery of the color wheel, using complimentary colors to play against each other (my college roommate Sean, who is a Graphic Designer, will be proud of me for that reference!). His technique in applying colors in layers to create depth or a light airy feeling is a particularly adept one. My favorite on the art side has got to be the beautiful full page spreads which could not only function as pinups, but enhance the story greatly. Johnston’s made a deliberate effort not to over-populate these pages with words, allowing the art to shine and convey story beats like entering a marketplace, a celebratory festival taking place, or the taboo sensuality of a forbidden love scene. It really requires a lot of trust in the artist's ability and restraint as a writer and responsible creative partner. Wasteland not only entertains, but functions at a more cerebral level, showing the world how great comics are made. Grade A+.