Sunday, December 04, 2011

The List - November 2011

Observed at the Baltimore County Public Library - Reisterstown, a bumper sticker: "Animals Don't Abuse Dumb People". Clearly, we're not watching reality TV. Fatal Attractions, a basic cable delight, features stories of Dumb People being killed by their pet tigers, venomous snakes, and chimpazees with a regularity and volume that suggests animals are very much abusing Dumb People. Not that it's the animals' fault.

And now, back to the show. Another short turn around month, but I'll do what I can.

1. American Vampire 20 - Alright, I'll admit, it doesn't hurt that there's a nicely drawn naked woman throughout most of the issue, but that's tangential to why this is at the top of The List this month. I just love the back story of Skinner Sweet and Jim Book, even though it's not as much a part of this issue as the story of the first American Vampire, the aforementioned naked woman. She was turned in the 1790s and has hidden in a cave in the Southwest for most of the 100 years since because she doesn't want to kill people. Another Native American named Hole in the Sky has come to her for help and appears to end up another kind of vampire altogether. More interestingly, Snyder appears to be ratifying his previous stories that show American Vampires to retain characteristics they had prior to being turned. Pearl remains a good person after being turned and so did this Native American woman, but Skinner remained an amoral killing machine. We know from the initial arc of the series that Hole in the Sky doesn't turn Skinner, so it'll be interesting to see how Skinner gets out of this situation.

2. The Unwritten 31 & 31.5 - The book is ramping up its pace by putting out 2 issues a month. M.K. Perker does finishes on 31 and Michael Wm Kaluta, Rick Geary, and Bryan Talbott do the art on 31.5, but Peter Gross is still doing a lot of work in keeping the main story line going. Issue 31 has Tom Taylor starting his attack on the Cabal by locating the three assassins who killed off so many of his acquaintances, and putting a spell on them so that the only thing they see is the final vision of their victims, which is them coming to kill the victims. That's a fine torture and one that may have come to Carey and Gross during their Lucifer run. It certainly fits. In any case, this issue is the opening arc of Tommy Taylor and the War of Words. Issue 31.5 is unrelated to that arc. There are several short stories that show how the Cabal has manipulated people so that only the stories the Cabal wanted known were known. These are told via Wilson Taylor's journals. In China in 221 BC Pullman leads a Chinese army to burn scrolls. He tricks the monks at one monastary into showing that they've memorized the scrolls they burned, so he kills all of them to end the stories. In 1898 a newspaper editorial cartoonist is blackmailed with threats to his family to prevent him from revealing what he's learned about the Cabal, which includes William Randolph Hearst. In 1462 Gutenburg manages a rare win over the Cabal by sending his apprentices, with their knowledge of how to build and operate a printing press, far and wide so that there's no point in the Cabal destroying his press, though they do break his fingers. The printing press causes the Cabal to take a different approach to suppressing stories. More targeted killing, mostly.

3. Invincible 84 & 85 - Like The Unwritten, the two issues don't have much to do with one another. Unlike The Unwritten, they're both part of larger story arcs. In 84 Mark decides that Dinosaurus was right about people with powers like theirs needing to do more to help the world as a whole, rather than just fighting other super powered people. He comes to this realization when Cecil and his boys take the glassy surface of what was Las Vegas and put it to the solar power collection use that Dinosaurus intended. Mark breaks Dinosuarus out of jail on the condition that Dinosaurus follow Mark and not kill people with his plans. Interestingly, Cecil treats this as a possible turning by Mark to aid the Vilturmites and ramps up his forces to attack. Mark's just doing the same thing Cecil did with the Reanimen. In 85, Mark's parents are on their way to see Allen the Alien, which is taking a while. They fill all their time on the trip with marathon sexual encounters, much to the irritation of the ship's crew who keep walking in on them. Meanwhile, on Talescria Oliver is nearly recovered from his injuries and living with Allen, where he's subject to hearing Allen and Telia's nightly sexual escapades, as well as having walked in on them once. Once Nolan arrives Oliver is sent to live with Nolan, but that doesn't resolve the problem of being subject to aural participation in other people's sexual activity. Poor Oliver. Of course, the real conflict, once we get past the sexual humor in the issue, is that Allen has sent a ship to Earth with the virus that kills Viltrumites. Nolan is dumbfounded by this because it may well kill all humans, too. A fight be brewing.

4. Mouse Guard: The Black Axe 3 - David Petersen continues another great story with another great quest. Celanawe and Em are shipwrecked on an island with no mouse inhabitants. It's ruled by weasels but they do discover the remains of Em's brother, Benn, in among some rocks. He's been gone 5 years (or 20 seasons). They confirm the Black Axe is no legend because the weasel king has the axe, which he took from a mouse named Merek when Merek attacked him. He ate Merek, so Merek appears to have taken the Black Axe from Benn. Em and Celanawe are at a dead end in trying to get the Black Axe from the king when other weasels bring in the king's son who has been killed by a fox. Celanawe volunteers to kill the fox for the king, within two days, in return for the Black Axe. Em is left as hostage, as Celanawe is allowed to take the Black Axe for the task. It's a greatly thought out story so far with art that supports the story and looks great, too. It's too bad it's so long between issues, but it's worth the wait and I've been able to retain the story between issues even with the wait.

5. Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X 3 - So maybe it's a group called Majestic who are trying to kill Robo. Maybe not. Sure are a lot of paramilitary running around Omaha, though. And why has Station X been taken from London to Japan? A lot of hunting on both sides of the Atlantic in this one, and it still seems like the plotters are well ahead of Robo and Tesladyne. A lot of resources for whoever the foe is.

6. The Walking Dead 91 - Andrea's much disappointed in Rick, but at least she's not going to talk to dead Dale's hat like Rick has with the dead phone link to Lori. I understand why Rick doesn't want to get into a relationship right now, but I think Andrea's right about why they should. The main thing at this point is the supply issue. Even with the larger, wider foraging they only have a few weeks of food left for the community. And at the end we have a new, unknown someone eyeballing the community with binoculars. Heavily armed, whoever they are. It's going to continually mess with me that Sophia is alive and well in this book but dead on the TV version. One of many divergences in the show that take some getting used to.

7. Northlanders 46 - Still AD 999 and the war between the Hauksons and the Belgarssons is heating up. Brida has quite a hoard of funds and can certainly handle herself when attacked. Mar still hasn't returned from his raiding, so Brida recruits a half brother, son of her father and a kitchen slave, to attend the Althing, which she can't attend because she's not a man. The Althing votes for the island to convert to Christianity, which Brida won't do. Now the Belgarssons, with the support of the rest of the island, lay siege to the Hauksons. Brida's having some fun picking off Belgarssons with a cross bow and spots the priest who turned the island. Looks like part three won't go well for the priest.

8. Wonder Woman 3 - Consistently my favorite of the New 52 books, probably because of how much mythology is tied to it and done so well. The ongoing war Hera wages against any bastard children of Zeus is a great way to start. Greater still is revising Diana's origin. Seems her mother lied about Diana's birth. No mystical creation from clay was involved. Instead, Hyppolyta had an affair with Zeus. Hyppolyta lied to keep Hera from killing Diana as an infant, but now Diana feels her mother was a fool and her mother made a fool of her. I love that we're right in the midst of things with this story. There's none of the usual origin story approach. We're just right in it and figuring things out as we go along. Diana had a reason for leaving Paradise Island originally and Hyppolyta never asked. Diana still hasn't told. Oh, and the woman from middle America is still a riot. Firefly writing. Ha!

9. Fables 111 - Winter has arrived, in several ways. Looks like she's the one to replace her grandfather, but we'll see how the other cardinal winds try to eliminate her to pick their own choice of successor. Glad to see the return of the young version of Frau Totenkinder. I thought she and her boyfriend would be enjoying a quiet retirement but they were actually stuck in a winter hinterland until Winter retrieved them. And then there's Buffkin in Oz. Hard to believe, but Oz has a worse judicial system than a totalitarian country like Iran or China. If you plead guilty and turn on any friends, you get a more painless execution than if you resist. Yeah, that's all the trial there is.

10. Scalped 54 - Lots of dying. Ok, not unusual for this book. Still, Wade catches a stray one (and figures out too late who killed Gina) and Karnow has an unfortunate meeting with Dino. We had foreshadowing about Dino's turn, but I still had some hope for him. Guess that's done. Shunka gets fired, but not eliminated, and lays a big wet one on Red Crow before he goes. Unfortunately for meth dealing neo-Nazi Rath, Shunka takes care of his business before looking to take care of business with Dash, who still can't speak. Can't wait for 55.

11. Spaceman 2 - You know, I still love this book but there was a lot of good stuff this month, so it didn't make the top 10 this time. Orson, the genetically engineered former Mars astronaut, is in a deep pile, but he's making friends with the kidnapped reality show star/child. The kidnapper knows who Orson is and relates a bit of Orson's history to the kidnap victim who has the kidnapper's gun on both the kidnapper and Orson at this point. Seems the kidnapper has some problems of his own, being gut shot in a fall out with his co-conspirators, who are now floating face down in the water. By the end of this issue Orson has taken care of the kidnapper, some seaborn pirates called scurvy rats, and made an ally with the kidnap victim.

12. Incorruptible 24 - Continuing in the vein of the non-traditional hero, Max Damage is stuck between St Lucifer, who wants to take over Coalville to run his criminal enterprise, and the US Army, which wants to use Coalville as a base for attacking Plutonian, now that Max has driven Plutonian away. Max forces the two sides together and lays it out that only one of them can stay in his town, and only if they're willing to work with him. St Lucifer stays. Can't imagine that lasting long with Max fighting crime.

13. Batwoman 3 - Now we're heading into the bulk of the New 52 books that I like. They're all on a fairly even par but this one's still ahead of all but Wonder Woman. Unusual for me, I can enjoy this book on the art alone. JH Williams III just puts together a beautiful book to tell his story. Kate tries to chase off her cousin Bette from any further training, to protect Bette, but Bette suits up on her own with our watery threat apparently watching. At least Kate's love life seems to be improving.

14. Swamp Thing 3 - Yea! Abigail Arcane in full force. I like her better than the old version already. This one's proactive and kicks ass. Better yet, her tween age brother is an evil little mutant. So cool.

15. Animal Man 3 - Travel Foreman's art and Jeff Lemire's story are exciting, though the Red still is a bit disconcerting. Like Wonder Woman, we're in the thick of things and not bogging down with the traditional origin story. The Other's Hunters Three are having their way with Buddy and Maxine as well as the non-superpowered wife and son.

16. Demon Knights 3 - Still a lot of fun. A siege, a siege. My what a wonderful siege. Mean bunch, the Horde. Cutting off a little girl's head is no way to endear yourself. Then again, that's not the goal.

17. Blue Beetle 3 - This is more the tradional origin story. So far, so good. Given Jaime's youth, I think that's a good approach for this book. More than most of the New 52 books on the List, this one has some characters from the wider DCU, in this case the New Teen Titans foes from my youth, Phobia, Plasmus, and Warp. They're kind of tangential, though. Dama, who's both a crime boss and a magician, is a bad ass. So's the battle suit on Jaime and the empire that wants it back. Jaime's going to have to have a short learning curve.

18. Batwing 3 - More back story this issue, but a lot of good fighting between Batwing and Massacre in the present. Still no info on what the betrayal is that The Kingdom is supposed to have perpetrated on all of Africa. I'm guessing we'll find out soon.

19. Resurrection Man 3 - Ok, the powers thing is getting a bit more interesting. I like the chalk outlines in limbo, or wherever that is. Surprisingly, I'm becoming interested in the back story for the two super powered hot chicks trying to capture him. Now a retiree villain? Definitely staying interesting.

20. I, Vampire 1-3 - Jim's a bad influence. He liked this, and I read it back in its first iteration long ago, so I picked up all 3 issues this month. It's definitely more interesting than the original run. Not sure how long I'll keep with it, but it's another drain on the wallet for now.

21. iZombie 19 - Still the same issue that I think this will read better in a longer form, but I'm far enough into it now that I'm holding on. Once this arc ends, I'll re-evaluate.

22. Super Dinosaur 6 - Still a good comic aimed at younger readers but I think the aim is staying a little too low for me. I'll see how this second arc plays out, but maybe not much more.

23 Dark Horse Presents 6 - I really like the stories in DHP but the $8 a month is starting to drive it off the List. I particularly liked the Fabio Moon story this month, and made sure to get the version with his cover art, too. Ciao.

24. Snarked 0 - And now a free comic. Not priced that way, but in the 3 issue packs at Cards, Comics and Collectibles. I know 0 issues are just teasers, but less than half of this is actual comic. The rest is fill in or bonus, depending on your perspective. An amusing little tale with The Walrus and The Carpenter aping Laurel and Hardy.

25. Haunt 18 & 19 - Well, 18 was the last Kirkman issue and I ended up with 19 because I forgot to tell the shop to cut it off with 18. Can't say as there was much to the ending in 18. Hurg allies with Director Tosh to save his own hide from his former compatriots. It felt like story interruptus, and I think it was because Kirkman left due to time constraints from his other projects. The new team of Joe Casey and Nathan Fox which took over with 19 wasn't an improvement. It was like a totally new character. Brothers alive and dead who are Haunt no longer work together at all. Dead brother just wants to kill everyone and everything, and ends up killing live brother's girlfriend. There's a new bunch of villains modeled on the Catholic Church, never mind that we weren't done with the old villains from the first 18 issues. The new creative team is either unfamiliar with what went before or just doesn't care. They've even got live brother seeing dead brother, where before live brother could hear dead brother but didn't see him. It went from Ghost to Poltergeist. That's enough of that.

26. Elric: The Balance Lost FCB & 1 - The other 2 books in the free pack, these were actually why I picked the pack. Chris Roberson is the writer and I like a number of other things he's done. Not this. Too much back story I don't know or don't care about. A muddled philosophy of some sort, too. Mostly I left it feeling "meh".

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