Sunday, December 06, 2009

The List - November

Here's what I got in November, in order of preference.

1 Northlanders 22 - Still knocking it out of the park. The 22 issues of this series have shown a level of craftmanship not often seen, particularly on such a consistent basis. Number one in the numerous books I seem to be getting that feature strong women, as this current arc and the last both have.

2 Superman: Secret Origin 3 - Geoff Johns has a lot of projects with DC, and this month they're all tooting his horn. This one is deserving of the flourish. Gary Frank's art doesn't hurt, either. Quite possibly the best psychological examination of Luthor, Lane, Olson and Kent I've seen. I don't care if it's continuity. I think I'd be happier if it isn't, so Johns goes all out.

3 Detective Comics 859 - Rucka and Williams on the lead story of Batwoman and Rucka and Hamner on the back up of The Question are keeping this one near the top with excellent stories and excellent art, though Williams is probably a bit ahead of Hamner. One of the aforementioned series featuring strong female leads, this one's unique in that both leads are lesbians. More impotantly, they're well fleshed out characters. Neither is solely defined by being a lesbian, but Rucka really brings it to the forefront this issues, as the deeply flawed "Don't ask, don't tell" policy is shown to be the reason the Army lost a potentially great soldier in Kate Kane, which also sent her on a spiral of self indulgent aimlessness. The reveal of the early relationship between Kane and Montoya was also a nice touch.

4 Stumptown 1 - Another one from Rucka, and also another one with a strong female lead. I didn't have this on my radar initially, but with over the top reviews by both Pops and Chris Sims of the ISB, I picked it up. And I'm damn glad I did. Featuring a Native American lead who's a PI, the parallel with Scalped is obvious, but this one's set in Portland, OR, it doesn't have the despair of the Souix reservation in Scapled. There's the obligatory Native American casino, of course, but even with a gambling problem and a brother who appears to suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, the lead is an upbeat person who lives fairly well. The evident plot she's stumbled into is just taking shape, but Rucka looks to have a good plan in place here. This one's from Oni Press, by the way.

5 Madame Xanadu 17 - More in the strong female lead category. I'll have to write something on that at another time. Our 1950s foray has gone from the bizarre malady of an apparently typical middle class woman to outright sinister with the reappeaance of Morgan le Fay. Another great one from Wagner and Hadley.

6 Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love 1 - Roberson and McManus bring us a tale of secret agent work and fine shoes. Surpassing it's source material this month and, yet another strong female. This issue just set the groundwork, but I'm looking forward to the rest of the tale.

7 Fables 90 - Willingham, et al continue the focus on Frau Totenkinder and the other Fables strong in magical ability, as the imminent battle with the Dark Man builds. The battle of Bufkin, a flying monkey from the Wizard of Oz, against the extremely magically powerful Baba Yaga, as both remain confined in the Fabletown offices, is both amusing and a neat little tale of death by a thousand cuts. Sort of. An ensemble tale and lots of strong characters, male and female alike. It's good to see the ship righted since the end of the irritating Great Fables Crossover.

8 Unknown Soldier 14 - Like Northlanders, Unknown Soldier is as much a cultural exploration as it is a strong tale with strong characters. Dysart has a clear vision of where he's going with this story. I can't help but think there's an eventual end point to this tale, as its lead is so damaged and so at risk that I can't possibly think that he would survive too much longer.

9 Action Comics 883 - I'm reading nothing else set in the current Superman world of Kryptonian politics and human machinations. You'd think that would make it hard to keep up with what's going on in this book, tied to the rest as it is, but Rucka has done an excellent job of making the needed information from those other stories just present enough to follow what's going on while at the same time advancing the story of Flamebird and Nightwing. I could read this one for the relationship between the two leads alone, but the other elements make for even more enjoyment.

10 The Unwritten 7 - This is definitely more interesting since the massacre. I enjoyed Carey and Gross on Lucifer, so I gave them a good bit of room on this one and kept with it when others were complaining it wasn't going anywhere to start. Good work like this needs to develop at a pace that doesn't necessarily involve knock down, drag out imbroglios in each issue. There's conflict aplenty now, as well as plenty of story.

11 Giant-Size Thor Finale 1 - Mostly I'm disappointed that it's the end of Straczynski's run on Thor. I'm done with Thor, like I was done with it shortly after Simon's run ended. Then I kept with it awhile to see what would happen. This time Marvel made it easy by giving me preview into the next story line that totally sucked. The mere fact that Dr Doom is seen to strangle the goddes Kelda, who was just shown in the lead story to be able to turn herself into mist, is enough to kill any hope I might have had that this new story line would be worth my time. Where Pops lowered his view of this issue because of the preview and the re-print of the first Thor story, I raised it because it's an automatic cost savings next month.

12 The Walking Dead 67 - Kirkman continues the best zombie story I've ever seen, probably because it's not really about the zombies, who sometimes make only token appearances. The conversations with Rick and Karl, and the development of their characters, make this a comic worth buying, regardless of the rest. The reveal that there's really no point to the sojurn to DC and the appearance of a new character at the end are bonus.

13 Secret Six 15 - Ostrander's origin story for Deadshot. Really, nothing else needed to say.

14 Ex Machina: Ex Cathedra TPB - This is a rarity for me in that I only buy the trades. A friend told me about the series, knowing I was reading Y the Last Man at the time, and Vaughan's work here is probably better than Y, which I enjoyed up until the end. This arc features Hundred's near assassination of Pope John Paul II and, as always, explores interesting social, political and religious ground in a world where there was only ever one superhero, who's now mayor of NYC, and only one of the twin towers was successfully attacked.

15 Teen Titans: The Future is Now TPB - I think I reviewed Geoff Johns's work on this series in a Comics Cabinet post and came to the conclusion that I don't know why I dropped it. This is the first trade that picks up issues I didn't read. Good time travel stuff, which isn't something you'll here from me often.

16 The Mighty 10 - Another world with only one superhero. This one's not so heroic. Turns out he's more akin to Omni-Man in Invincible, prior to his reformation. I've found Tomasi's talke very interesting and am looking forward to the final two issues to see how it wraps.

17 Irredeemable 8 - While The Mighty looked at its superman with ambiguity, Waid's Plutonian has been a bastard from the beginning, having killed millions. The journey has been learning why. More of a Superman without the stable home life that grounded the original. Really, it's a kind of Elseworlds tale, but more violent.

18 Invincible 68 - And here we are in the third of the trio of characters inspired by Superman, though it's a less direct line here. More Son of Superman, I suppose. I still wish there wasn't the coy scene business when the characters have sex, given the graphic level of violence, but I understand Kirkman's reasoning that outside forces put the book in a different classification if it has graphic sex but don't if it has graphic violence. The question out of this issue? Are we hading toward Grandson of Superman?

19 Gotham City Sirens 6 - Just plain fun. Dini's the reason I bought into this and he's been as good as expected. Sort of falls into the strong female class, except the three females are rather damaged goods. I loved the look into how the Joker was transformed from a gag themed criminal into a homicidal maniac, and the former being whistfully missed by a former henchman, now homicidal in his own right. Besides, what's not to like about a little person with a Moe haircut and bulbous nose when you're aiming for tragicomedy?

20 Batman: Streets of Gotham 6 - This started at the same time as Gotham City Sirens and was originally written by Dini, too. Like Action Comics or Detective Comics, it's featured a lead story and a back up story. I've never been a particular fan of Huntress or Manhunter, but both have been interesting. Chris Yost wrote this one, and it kept the flow Dini started. Still, I'll have to keep an eye on it to see if it's worth continuing.

21 Outsiders 24 - Tomasi's story line is being interrupted a bit by Blackest Night, but this was the best of the Blackest Night stories I bought this month. I liked the tactic of Terra talking to her brother rather than attacking the group.

22 Batman and Robin 6 - This would be higher if I could keep in my mind what's happened from one issue to the next since the Professor Pig line ended. I have to go back to see what happened, and that's not so good.

23 The Great Ten 1 - A maxi-series at 10 issues, this falls into my like for explorations of other cultures. It's taking the easy track of criticizing China on Tibet policy in this issues, so I hope it goes into greater depth in exploring Chinese culture in the future.

24 Hellboy: The Wild Hunt 8 - I liked this story and the development that Hellboy is descended from King Arthur, but I'm not sure I'm going to stick with the Hellboy universe. Kind of wavering here, but it's falling into the problem of feeling like I'm buying too much already.

25 Adventure Comics 4 - I've liked where this has gone with Connor Kent, and Superboy Prime can be grating, but this is so self aware a tale, I couldn't help but enjoy it. Second rank amongst the Blackest Night stories. The back up story with the Legion gets lost in my memory, but it's just the back up.

26 Jersey Gods 9 - As I've said previously, I like the Kirbyesque art and grand story, but this issues was a bit slow. It also had the coy nudity bit I love so much.

27 The Brave and the Bold 29 - I had dropped this awhile ago but with Straczynski coming on I thought I'd give it a go. I know little to nothing about Brother Power the Geek, but it was a nicely touching little one and done.

28 Justice Society of America 80 Page Giant 1 - Seven individual stories wrapped around a central theme. A classice style of story in comics and quit enjoyable, if of little consequence. More a fill in the details sort of thing.

29 Green Lantern Green Arrow TPB Vol 1 - Couldn't resist this one when Cards, Comics and Collectibles had it on sale for $5. Eventually I'll get volume 2. The style of story telling from the early '70s doesn't hold up to the more fluid style today, and the stabs at topicality were about as blunt as you'd expect for the time, but it was ground breaking work all the same.

30 Air 15 - This one's on its way out. A female lead who dithers and traipses around after her mysterious love, but sleeps with some other guy along the way isn't what I'd call a strong female lead. Lovely art, but the story's dragging it down. I'm trying to hold out until at least a semblance of resolution to what's currently the main arc, but that'll be the end.

31 House of Mystery 19 - Same kind of problem as Air. At least Fig doesn't sleep with someone else while mooning over a strange lover. And her's is a lot stranger, being an aspect of the house itself. I just don't think the arc we're in, in which Cain is trying to get his hous back, is working too well. Once that arc's done, I'll have to re-assess.

32 Ghost Riders: Heaven's on Fire 4 - I don't dislike this series, but I'm not thrilled either. It's no Scalped, Jason Aaron notwithstanding.

33 The Warlord 8 - This one looks like it could leap up the list soon. Good groundwork, but this particular issue seemed like it should have come before issue 7. Really, the two issues seemed like an acid flashback, or what I'd think one would seem like. If it doesn't make the leap soon, it'll fall off altogether.

34 Justice Society of America 33 - There's way too much Magog in this series now, and the break to JSA All-Stars that this issue represents could be good for having less Magog in JSA, but I also don't like seeing all the younger cast leaving.

35 The Flash Rebirth 5 - A good story that now seems to have no point because other events have passed it by as it has slowly emerged. Plus, the whole speed force business is about as complex as time travel, which isn't a good thing.

36 Haunt 2 - Still looking for a clear direction, but I'm allowing for some room, as Kirkman is the primary writer here. Hopefully he'll have primacy over McFarlane.

37 Blackest Night 5, Green Lantern 47 & 48, Green Lantern Corps 40-42 - I lump these all together because they're all the same grand epic. It's going to need some overview before I decide if this is any good. I've bought all this because it's Johns, but right now it's making me think hanging back for the trades on these things, as I did with 52 and the Sinestro Corps War is the better course.

38 Image United 1 - Another purchase for the sake of Kirkman, but I have no idea who any of these characters are. I've seen Savage Dragon in Invincible and Proof, but that didn't give me but so much. It all seems very '90s somehow, and I can't help but wonder why Image is taking the direction of making its various creator owned titles inhabit the same universe. One of the best selling points to creator owned is the independence to follow the story where it needs to go without concern about how it's going to affect someone else's entirely unrelated title. Look at what garbage is happening with Thor being sucked back into the Marvel Universe and you can see why I don't understand why Image would look to the same direction. I'll give his one more issue, but that's probably about it unless there's some major improvemement.

With strong female characters being something of a theme in this post, may I just say "What the hell?" The creators of the newest version of Star Trek (which I just got around to seeing) are clever enough to give themselves an open playing field with no allegiance to any of the Star Trek that's gone before, but they have only one strong female in the story, and she's fatally undercut, in my opinion, from early on. I don't mean that Uhura as played by Zoe Saldana is missing the wonderful proportions of Nichelle Nichols. No, far worse, and not at all superficial, is that Uhura is evidently engaged in a sexual relationship with Spock, who is also her instructor at Starfleet Academy. There's nothing I hate more than the canard of a supposedly brilliant woman sleeping with her professor. There's nothing admirable in such a relationship, nor even attractive to me as a viewer. Universities have policies against such relationships for very good reason. It's too open to abuse by either party, as the man has control over the woman in terms of her academic future based on the grades he can give, and the woman is equally empowered in a negative way with the possible threat of exposure of the man, who faces his own consequences for engaging in the relationship. Beyond that, it just makes both characters seem stupid when the story up to that point has worked hard at making them out to be brilliant. I think less of this Uhura and this Spock, and I don't know what the creators of this version of Star Trek can do to repair it.


  1. The nudity gets a bit less coy in the next issue.

    What can I say? I *really* like nipples.

  2. Good to know. Maybe the first superhero comic I've gotten that had actual nudity. So far it's been restricted to titles like Scalped, which aren't at all concerned about being adult content.

  3. Good point, Red Dog. I actually think the average David Finch/Top Cow chick is more provocative than what we're doing on JG. Although we have a bit of nudity, we're playing it as something natural between lovers, instead of having Zoe thrusting her - barely clothed - tits at the reader every other panel or so.

  4. Dan - How's that affect your sales, or rating in terms of who a given store can market it to? That is, what Robert Kirkman has written when people have raised it in his letter columns is that he'd get a lot more grief and trouble in getting the comic marketed if he included nudity, trouble that he doesn't get with graphic violence.

    Nice to hear you're presenting it as a natural occurence. I know I've never had either of us walk around in a sheet after sex, as is so often used as a method of hiding the "naughty bits". Tend not to have sex with the bits obstructed, either. Not that I'd mind depictions of naked, thrusting tits, mind you, but there's no need to go overboard in either the covering or uncovering. Natural's the way to go, something that should always be kept in mind while discussing tits.

  5. By the way, the us to whom I'm referring in walking around after sex is me and my wife. Don't want anyone to think I'm referring to you and me. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  6. You know, I've never really thought about it from Kirkman's POV. My feeling is that if I don't make a big deal about it, neither will anyone else. It's just a boob (and FWIW, the panel in question also features a topless man. I'm progressive that way). Also, I should cover Glen's ass here and say that this wasn't in the script - I put it in because, as I said, I really like nipples. And also cos I like a bit of European flavour in my comics, and what's more European than nudity?

    How does it/will it affect sales? Not one jot, I'd imagine. Of course if you want to tell people that Issue 10 of Jersey Gods is the SEX ISSUE, I couldn't stop you (and it couldn't hurt :)

  7. After considering and looking over this subject I wanted point out that if Dan wants to show thrusting tits, I will stand behind him! I can usually handle tits and really I'm less offended by a good rack then I am by pointless gore (although neither actually offends me).

    Funny thing is it was so naturally a part of the story I never really noticed it as anything out of the ordinary.

    PS - Jersey Gods one of the best books of 2009!

  8. >Funny thing is it was so naturally a part of the story I never really noticed it as anything out of the ordinary.

    That's exactly what I was after.

    >PS - Jersey Gods one of the best books of 2009!

    Why, thank you!