Sunday, June 06, 2010

The List - May 2010

Ah, now this is a much easier month. An entire week and a half between the last Wednesday of May and the first Sunday of June. Fewer books this month, too, though not by as much as there should be with the end of Blackest Night purchases. Off we go.

1. Scalped 38 - One of the reasons the last week of the month is the best week of the month, at least when it comes to comics. Right off the bat I loved the cover, with it's homage to Sgt Rock comics I read as a kid. This issue is the story of Dash Bad Horse's father, Wade. It also lays some back story of why Gina Bad Horse was involved with the killing of two FBI agents back in the late '70s. Amidst the usual pathos of the denizens of the Rez, Jason Aaron and RM Guera throw in a great nod to Forest Gump that made me smile. Of course, it was a twisted reference.

2. Secret Six 21 - As anyone who's been reading the List for its relatively short lifespan knows, Gail Simone's anti-hero book has been in the top half of my choices from the beginning, but this arc featuring the kidnapping of Catman's son has really been surpassing a lot of my usual Vertigo favorites. Not that DC minds, I'm sure. All in the family. This issue has great moments with the rest of the team, too. Black Alice's powers are quite a handful, and the four temps Bane gathers are even more psychotic than the regular team. Once again, loved the cover, too. The tracking of and fight with Loki were great moments with Catman, but in this arc, may not even be the best, hard as that may be to believe. Simone's got something really good going on here.

3. Green Hornet: Year One 3 - A month with three books written by Matt Wagner has got to be a good month. This one just eeks out another Wagner book on the list, but being a noir tale featuring two heroes without any super powers, just some costumes and skills, helps push this one ahead. Wagner's had a good build-up going on with this origin series. The flashes to the early life stories and meeting of Green Hornet and Kato, while the "present" story of their first sojurns into fighting crime in 1938 Chicago keeps the pacing steady and fills in back story without distracting from the 1938 story. Aaron Campbell's art is perfect for the mileu at hand. I'm quite enamored of the mask Green Hornet wears in this series. Not having paid much attention to Green Hornet previously, and being too lazy to search on line, I don't know if this is a new design or something employed by the original stories.

4. Madame Xanadu 23 - And here's Wagner offering dos. Like Campbell's art matching the noir in Green Hornet, Amy Reeder (no more Hadley?), is the perfect choice for the more beautiful tales of Nimue. It's not just the title character's beauty that I mean when I say this is a beautiful story. There's something captivating, suitable to the magical abilities featured, in what Wagner and Reeder are presenting. This issue is the finale of Nimue's clash with her sister, Morgana, which is fittingly destructive. Again, the appearance of J'onn J'onz has got to be one of my favorite reads of the character. The moment when Wagner has Nimue describe his Martian appearance without her ever having seen him in his true Martian form, is a joy and a fine example of writing for effect by use of the oblique.

5. Northlanders 28 - I don't know why, but I didn't see that coming. As bleak as many of these stories have been, in a certain sense they've had a happy ending. That is to say, I could see where things were going and I expected the ending that seemed fitting to the story being told. This ending, with the defeat of the characters for whom we'd been rooting all along, is a different tack than I expected. I especially liked our memory flashback wherein Karin's father is present but his face never seen. I expect Wood will bring Karin into another story some time in the future. I hope so.

6. Fables 95 - Chapter Two of the story of Rose Red is actually more of the childhood of Rose Red and Snow White. It's also the story of how Rose and Snow first met the man we readers would come to know as Prince Charming. The set piece's villain is a seriously anti-social Rumplestiltskin-ish dwarf. Gratitude is far from his strength when the girls repeatedly rescue him from dire situations that inadvertently lead to weakening him for eventual defeat. I suppose gratitude shouldn't be expected under those circumstances. It's interesting that Rose marks the meeting of Prince Charming as the end of the idyllic relationship she had with Snow, rather than later when she had an affair with Charming. I like these stories, but I really want to know what's happening with the Dark Man.

7. Unknown Soldier 20 - Not only is Dysart's writing engaging, and Ponticelli's art captivating, Dysart's background notes provide so much information on the Ugandan cultural and political problems that I could read the book just for that. It's somewhat like The Question during the O'Neil era when letter writers were expanding and expounding on the things touched on in the story. It's a bonus that just makes the story told that much more enjoyable. This issue has Moses boxed in and making a stand alongside a widow and her two children, one of whose birth defects leave him walking on all four limbs. A nice choice in story telling is made by having the deformed teen narrate most of the story and also in the fact that Moses and his allies don't speak a language in common but communicate through gestures, body language and eye contact. The stealthy and somewhat icky way (by Western standards) that the family survives the situation is great. But who are the guys with the helicopter and guns at the end? Hmm...

8. Batman and Robin 12 - Much has been written about the final reveal in this issue, and quite a good reveal it is. I'm not sure our surprise behind the mask of Oberon Sexton could really have pulled that deception off, given how he's been depicted in the past, but in this instance, I'll swallow the line, at least for now. The alliance of Deathstroke with Talia is certainly interesting, and the choice Damian has made is not entirely expected. He was, after all, raised to be an assassin, so his choice of Batman over his mother, while no doubt spurred by her using him as a tool, in the most literal of senses, is still not a fait accompli. It's amazing how fluid the art is, considering that we have Andy Clarke and Dustin Nguyen both working on pages. More amazing still is that they both match well with Frank Quitely's cover art, and the changes between their pages were seemless as I read the issue.

9. The Unwritten 13 - I think this book is under the radar to some extent, as I never see anyone else mention it. That's a shame because Mike Carey and Peter Gross have something going here that could rival their great Lucifer work. Tommy Taylor is almost hiding in plain sight now that he's back in London, Wilson Taylor is still an ambiguous, unseen figure, and Count Ambrosio may be the best vampire since Dracula. Plus we have wise counsel from Frankenstein's monster, Tommy's mother working behind the scenes to protect him, and the mystery that is Lizzie, aka Jane Waxman, missing person.

10. daytripper 6 - This should tell you something about how good May was for comics. This is usually at the top of the list, or at least in the first couple. And there's nothing wrong with this issue. Ba and Moon continue to present wonderful stories of Bras, obituary writer, son of famed writer, and corpse at the end of each issue to form a complete picture of one man and his many possible demises. This one touches closer to the Bras as obituary writer, which for some reason I tend to think of as the "real" Bras. After a terrible plane crash in Brazil we get snippets of the obituaries Bras writes for the passengers. These are works of art in their own right. Concurrently, Bras is worrying that his friend was on the plane but has not been able to determine that his friend was actually on the flight. In this little story line, the friend, who has appeared in several preceding stories, is fleshed out as a person, too.

11. Incorruptible 6 - This series is really moving along quickly. Jailbait and Max Damage are both vulnerable because of their affection for one another, despite their long history of not caring for anyone or anything but their own fiduciary enrichment. Waid's work with these characters is sort of like Simone's work on Secret Six, in that it follows villains, the difference being that these villains, or at least one of them, are trying not to be a villain any longer while the Secret Six are just villains with more conscience than some others.

12. Atomic Robo and the Revenge of the Vampire Dimension 3 - Absolutely fun. The fact that the Vampire Dimension has absolutely nothing to do with this issue is entirely irrelevant. Doctor Dinosaur is hilarious. His idiot savant quality of being a technical genius while being totally unaware of the cultures and everyday technology that employed by the humans he wants to supplant is perfect.

13. Proof 27 - The Countdown to Season Two continues. I don't think Grecian, Rossmo and Casey are doing themselves any favors with this subtitle. There's a really good story going on here, but countdown implies a holding pattern while waiting for something. There's no waiting going on here. Proof has a developing relationship, there's a finger in a box, and giant, menacing fairies walking around. Definitely not a holding pattern.

14. American Vampire 3 - Pearl's a whole lot of scary in this one. Embracing her vampiric abilities for some good revenge on the vampire's who attacked her when she was alive, she's full into the slice and dice, and creatively uses a cactus as a weapon. Her learning curve on her weakness(es) is explored, too. The second story of Skinner Sweet's origin is even more gory, and he's not nearly so nice a guy as he seemed in Pearl's story, so we'll see if there was something that happened between his revival and meeting Pearl or if he's just playing some angle with Pearl.

15. The Astounding Wolf-Man 23 - For me, the wake continues. Only 2 more issues left of this series. I'm sure Kirkman had many more stories to tell, and hopefully the character and supporting cast will make appearances in Invincible (wherefore art thou, by the way?), but this series deserved more time. At least we should have a nice climactic battle with Zechariah and the Elder both coming after out titular hero.

16. Jersey Gods 12 - Another series that died too soon. This could have been in the top ten, what with its wonderful Kirbyesque art and story of gods and shopping malls, but for one thing: Zoe clone. Really? I mean, it's great that Zoe turns out to be alive, but she never experienced any of the preceding 11 issues, so the whole Barok/Zoe relationship was a sham. Sort of yanks the rug out from under what went before. Maybe I'll like it better when I re-read all 12 issues, but right now it feels like it cut out its own heart. And I never did get to see Zoe (or clone Zoe) naked. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

17. The Walking Dead 72 - Still great, but not a lot happening this time. That's ok becaue I know Kirkman is delivering a long form story and this is just one chapter among many. I did like the more star presence of Michone, and the machinations Rick has underway are right in line with all he's learned since he woke up from his coma 72 issues ago. Their new hosts are still cyphers, which in this story works very well.

18. The Great Ten 7 - The origin of Seven Deadly Brothers is featured in this issue, and like the others, he's an interesting character in his own right. I'm looking forward to the series reaching its conclusion so I can read it all in one sitting. The Chinese "gods" appear more confused with each issue. Their story should prove interesting, too.

19. Zatanna 1 - One of 4 first issues I tried out this month, this one has the advantage of Paul Dini, one of my favorite writers when it comes to Batman and those characters closely associated with him. I loved his Zatanna stories in Detective Comics and this is a good start for her own series. The cast of villains set up in this issue is all new and all interesting. Who'd think a little boy holding a box could be such a scary figure? Very good, creative work here.

20. Power Girl 3 - Not new, of course, but new to me. Another of the Cards, Comics and Collectibles of Reisterstown, MD's pack of 3 free comics with regular Wednesday purchase. I've heard quite a bit of good things about this title and figured free was a good way to give it a look. It was obviously amid story already, but I picked up the trail quickly. It's very good work by Gray and Palmiotti, with fantastically exaggerated art by Connor. Sexy and funny make a great combination, if the creators actually hit those notes. These three do.

21. Zorro 13 - This one came in the free packet with Power Girl and was a welcome surprise. The third of the Matt Wagner titles this month, it's a good stand alone story. I have no idea what came before but fell right into it. Now I'd like to get at least issue 14 to see how the rescue goes.

22. Irredeemable 13 - I'm still having a hard time getting into this one anymore. I can't quite put my finger on why, either. Bette Noir is talking with her father, who's been hiding out as a homeless guy to avoid being killed by the Plutonian. She comes clean to him about how she cuckolded her husband with the Plutonian and might have had a chance to stop him, but didn't. Maybe it's something to do with how self-pitying so many of the characters are. The one guy who has some gumption to lead and fight the Plutonian comes across more as a over powered ego maniac, so that's not much better. Maybe it's that there doesn't appear to be any hope in this story. It's still good writing and very good art, so I'm along for awhile, but I feel like it needs an end point somehow.

23. izombie 1 - This was another first issue try-out, with the bonus of being $1. It's all set up for an intelligent zombie with a ghost friend becoming some sort of detective. It could be good. To me, the art's holding it back somewhat. There's something that's not hitting me right, which is a little odd because I've seen Michael Allred's art previously and liked it. Maybe it's not so much the art as the coloring, which has an over abundance of purple/grey tones to it. I know Gwen's supposed to be walking dead, but she's also supposed to pass for living. Her skin color is entirely too close to her work jumpsuit (which, by the way is a funny thing in itself. I've been to more than a few funerals over the years and never seen gravediggers in uniforms). I'll give it another issue or two because the premise has promise, but it's on the edge.

24. The Warlord 14 - I got what I wanted with a new person under the mantle of The Warlord, but I'm having a hard time remembering what's going on unless I pick up an issue and look at it again. Next issue promises everything changes. I hope so.

25. Batman Streets of Gotham 12 - Dini work again, but somehow I'm not feeling this one so much. I think it's that the cover doesn't match the interior at all. The story is part one of two of The Carpenter, a minor villain who's more inclined to do construction work for illicit players in the Gotham scene tan a villain in her own right, it's a nice, light story where the cover is all black and white with sinister bats. Maybe I should christen May "The Month of How a Cover Can Make or Break a Book".

26. Detective Comics 865 - I have no real interest in the Arkham story that's running in the front of the book. It's the Question, written by Greg Rucka, that's held my interest. I liked Vandal Savage with his mark of Cain. Too bad he managed to get rid of it.

27. Gotham City Sirens 12 - I'm thinking these 3 Batman related books are all clustered together at this end of the spectrum because I think of them as part of a greater whole, though Batman and Robin being near the top would tend to undermine that theory. Never knew Selena had a sister up 'til now, but crazy ex-nun is an interesting way to go. Still a fun series but I'd like to see it do something to move up into Secret Six realm.

28. Haunt 7 - Heading into its second arc now, I hope this makes some greater strides. The one off issue telling the initial arc from a different perspective was very good, but the series as a whole has only been good. I'd like more Kirkman and less McFarlane in the letters columns, too.

29. Justice League: Generation Lost 1 - Another first issue try-out. It's low on the list, but that's just a matter of first issue uncertainty. I'll give it more issues. I was totally out of the loop with any of these characters until the Captain Atom back-up in Action Comics, and that seems to have nothing at all to do with this book. I don't think I've seen Ice or Fire since I stopped reading the JLI many years ago. I think the book has a nice set up with Maxwell Lord's memory trick. It's got potential.

30. Birds of Prey 1 - The final of the 4 try-outs. Someone else mentioned it somewhere else, but Benes does seem to draw the same face for all of his women. It's a nice face, mind you. The opening sequence with Black Canary was very well written and drawn, too. And I'm looking foward to learning more about White Canary, but I'll need some more hook than what we have here if I'm going to get into this book long term.

31. Micahel Turner's Fathom Dawn of War Zero 0 - The last of the three free issues in the pack. No idea what this was about, really, which is striking for a zero issue. Talent Cald's art is very good and very clear, and yet there were sequences where I couldn't tell what was going on due to the angle employed. The story appears to be picking up in the middle of a longer ongoing story and is really brief. Guys guard prisoners at a NORAD-like facility. A prisoner escapes. Prisoner and a guard are shot dead by other guards. There's nothing in the story to tell me why the prisoner had to be shot or why the guards would make no effort not to hit their co-worker. Not something I'll be looking at again.

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