Sunday, May 01, 2011

The List - April 2011

Another freakin' short turn around month. April should have 31 days, that way I'd have another week. But, it doesn't so there may be a bit of brevity with some of our entries. Or not. I tend toward the verbose.

1. Ex Machina - Term Limits (TPB 10) - This and JL:GL give me an opportunity to talk about endings. This trade is the final chapter in Ex Machina, Brian K Vaughn and Tony Harris's wonderful work about a super hero in a non-super hero world. While it leaves some things open to possible future stories, should Vaughn and Harris wish to revisit, it has a definitive end. The threats are gone, we move ahead as far as 2008, when most of our story was in 2005 as the present. There are unexpected turns and a good bit of science fiction, parallel worlds machinations. I don't know that I'm any closer to understanding Hundred's power source than I was when I started with the first trade several years ago, but it's a coherent story with lots of great characters who develop through the course of it. My biggest question is why Hundred wasn't corrupted by his powers the way everyone else who got powers from the parallel universe was?

2. Cinderella: Fables are Forever 3 - Broken record though I may be, I can't get enough of Roberson and McManus doing these Cinderella stories. Dorothy Gale is a great foil, and, even more than the previous series with Aladdin, there's a panoply of characters from the original source material who are being put to new and unexpected uses. And then there's Anansi, the spider. It's a rich vein they're mining in these Fables, both modern and ancient. To top it off, this may be the first story I've ever read with any setting in Burkina Faso.

3. Scalped 48 - Aaron employs much in the way of changing perspective and time stream in this 4th part of the You Gotta Sin to Get Saved story, with one more part to go. Much of the story is Dash and Red Crow undergoing a sweat so Red Crow can determine if Dash is worthy of his trust for all his many secrets in all his many enterprises. Shunka is scowling and apparently about to do something about his distrust of Dash, while Catcher is putting Dash to a test of his own. Nitz is back in the "get Red Crow" business and gives a bonus punch to the gut to Dash to reinforce Dash's cover. Part five looks like a lot will be coming to a head, including the fate of Officer Falls Down, who's been missing since he walked out of Catcher's trap a few issues ago.

4. Northlanders 39 - The Siege of Paris ends. A Viking grows to old age. The siege is, as might be expected, a blip in the history of the world and ends in a largely un-Viking payoff instead of more blood. Our now one armed hero spends his days living within sight of Paris, a pension of sorts that he received for his efforts at breaking the resistance of the Parisians that led to his arm loss.

5. The Unwritten 24 - Going to show that these top five at least are really all on an even par, this one comes in at 5 even though it may be one of my favorite reads in quite some time. The second half of Pauly the Rabbit's story is even more brutal than the first. Pauly runs a reign of terror over the intrepid band of story characters, based on a false messianism, and promptly flees when it looks like the end for him and his band, but the band prevails over those who are attacking and works on overcoming the break in the stairs that held them up. Sadly, the band of stories is still venerating Pauly and the offspring he sired.

6. Fables 104 - Up, up and away! I wonder if the actual battle with Dark Man will be half as much fun as the one Pinocchio conjured in his mind. If next issue doesn't bring much of what's happened in this issue to a head, I'll be surprised. If nothing else, we should have a serious confrontation between Bigby and his father over Bigby's invisible son. I think the cult of Boy Blue is in for a rude awakening in the not too distant future.

7. American Vampire 14 - Skinner, Skinner, Skinner. Such the sly one. Actually, I'm surprised whenever he's sly, as it's more subtle than his usual. Aside from the big mystery of why he turned Pearl, he's been largely the bloodthirsty force of nature. His self appointed mission to expose Henry's lies to Pearl is bloody, what with it occuring during an invasion of Taipan during World War II, but his raison d'etre is escaping me so far. The surface reason he's given Pearl seems unlikely.

8. The Walking Dead 84 - Carl's not dead, at least not yet. That part I expected. Even if Kirkman ends up killing Carl, it's not likely to be that clean and quick. Kirkman often makes his characters, especially the ones that have been around awhile and gained fans of their own, suffer grievous hurts. Rick's hand is an obvious example, but the execution of Tyrese is another. Not many books take note of just how difficult it is to behead a person. I suppose that's one of the reason executioner was a profession and not something any schmo off the street could do. On a positive note, the community has done something it didn't seem inclined to do, and Rick has reached a real seminal point in his life, probably the most important one since he woke from his coma to find himself in a zombie infestation.

9. Secret Six 32 - Not only the ever glorious Secret Six, but featuring the best loon in the bunch, Rag Doll. It continues to amaze me that Simone can make this bunch both murderously crazy and appealing. They're all damaged beyond repair but they're all complex. Now we have Catman finding his father in Hell, for what purpose who can tell (his guide is Etrigan, just as well). Parademon and Knockout are here, too. This is the best fighting in Hell since Carey and Gross had Lucifer give up his title. And there's much more to come.

10. iZombie 12 - Shifting focus to Ellie for this issue was a good bit of fun. Her fellow ghosts are a largely pathetic lot. I've thought Ellie was somewhat needy in her interactions with Gwen, but compared to her peers she's well adjusted, though I did like Smitty the cowboy being accosted by more recently deceased ghosts for his anachronistic terminology for other ethnicities and his entirely to be expected adherence to American exceptionalism. He's attacked for being ignorant, but it's the more recently deceased's failure to understand the circumstances of his time that comes across as being the product of a failure to learn. When it turned into the origin of Ellie's first meeting with Gwen, that was just a sweet plus.

11. Invincible 79 - While I wondered as Jim did about why Eve was portrayed as thin on the cover of the issue, I didn't have the same problems with it that he did. Eve aborted the pregnancy. Eve got fat, or at least zaftig. These I found in keeping with her character. She's not a strong person, emotionally. She's strong in her powers, but she has a long term problem relationship with her adoptive father, an inexplicable romance with Rex Splode, and runs off to Africa when her relationship with Mark reaches a troubling point. Dealing with things directly and in a healthy manner aren't hallmarks of who she is. With her fear that Mark would never come back, I easily see her deciding to abort. I also think the eating fits, between her missing Mark and some obvious feelings of guilt about the decision to abort. It all feels right to me about the character, just as Mark ogling her larger butt and enjoying her more zaftig appearance feels right about his character. Now if they can just explain the cover...

12. Super Dinosaur 1 - Fun. A lot of fun. Kirkman and Howard are drawing on some time honored comic book tropes with the super genius kid and his fear that his father will be exposed for his failing mental abilities, but there's some turns going on already that tell me this is a Kirkman authored work. In fact, it reads very much like Invincible or Astounding Wolf-man without the adult language or sexual situations. An all ages book with brains.

13. Incorruptible 17 - I wasn't expecting Max's decisions in this one. Not that they weren't in keeping with the character, but I expected a bit more threatening and punching of the rich guy. Max is surprising a lot of the other characters in the book, and me too. Loved the little guy in the football helmet, too. The Flash as a malignant little person. Nice.

14. Dark Horse Presents 1 - Ah, fond times. I used to get these fairly often in the original run, mostly if Concrete or something by Frank Miller was in an issue. Of course, both are in this issue, and in color. It's nice to see an anthology again, and 80 pages is a great count, but $8 is a bit much. The interview with Miller I could have done without, but I greatly enjoyed the prose work by Ellison. Hard to go wrong with Ellison, really.

15. Haunt 15 - Huh, how about that. Issue 15 and 15th on the List. If I were a numerologist I might think that had some signficance. But, I'm an atheist, so it's just the way sh-t falls. Who'd a thunk the Apparition was a force of good? Not me. Well, good's relative. It doesn't seem so good to Kurt and Daniel, especially Daniel. I'm really starting to think this book might move up higher on the list if Capullo could give each woman who appears her own face. I know, I've mentioned it a lot already, but it's still annoying.

16. Birds of Prey 11 - This is one of the few super hero books to make my recent cuts in that area. Mostly it's Simone who's the reason. Of course, this issue featuring Huntress and Catman doesn't hurt, either. With the reveal at the end it had a much more Secret Six feel than it usually does. Wouldn't mind seeing more of that here.

17. Ms. Tree 7, 8, 10 - Free stuff time. Cards, Comics and Collectibles has a few of these packs of 3 belonging all to the same title, which is nice for giving a broader feel to the read. Anyway, I remember Ms Tree ads from long ago when I was reading Eclipse comics such as Scout and Airboy regularly. Never did pick up any issues then. Now I'm thinking a trade or some such might be a good thing to find. Fine noir work by Max Collins and Terry Beatty. Although I'm coming in to the middle of things in these three issues, which aren't even consecutive, I picked up a lot of what was happening without difficulty. I must say that the change to Aardvark-Vanaheim by the 10th issue didn't help the quality. The story was still good, but the presentation as two tone was not.

18. Justice League: Generation Lost 23, 24 - Remember how I mentioned endings at the top of The List? Here's another. Except, unlike Ex Machina, there's nothing about this ending that feels like an ending. I enjoyed the team's hunt for Max Lord, both to expose him to the world and, later, to prevent him exacting revenge on Wonder Woman. There are several things that killed this for me in the end. First, where's the satisfaction in getting revenge on a woman who doesn't recall who you are? Moreso, where's the revenge in killing a woman who no one else remembers? In fact, no one remembers her or Max, so it's just a random killing. Even in Max's dialogue in the final issue he laments no one recognizing all he's done to save the world, killing hundreds being only an unfortunate byproduct. (Which also brings up the issue of when Max became Lex Luthor. I mean, saving the world from the ills of super beings is supposed to be Lex's schtick these days. Why's it now Max's thing?) Second, I don't buy for a second how this thing was resolved. Max is forced into sending out a mental control to the entire world that says "remember", so the whole world remembers who he is. Ok, that's kind of hard to believe, what with "remember" being a vague instruction, but I suppose I could see that it would be taken by the world's recipients to mean "remember the person who's sending you this". What I don't buy is that the world remembers Max but not that he was a murderous manipulator. How's he not immediately the world's most wanted instead of a guy pleading his case on a web video? And the whole damn thing is just a set up for an ongoing series anyway.

19. FF 2 - Still too early to get a handle on whether I'm going to like this long term. The portrayal of Reed, Sue, Ben and Peter all seem in keeping with the characters I remember, and Doom is his usual vile self, even brain damaged. Not sure I buy the plotting by Val, genius or no.

20. The Twilight Avenger 1, 2 - Elite Comics wasn't a publisher I recall from those long gone days of 1986, but it sure is that kind of read from small publishers of the time. It feels like it's trying to be a 1940s comic, and it does that fairly well. It was a part of a pack of 3 free comics, so it was worth the price.

21. Cerebus 200, 202, 204 - I know this book has existed a long time and had a loyal following but I'm not seeing why. I'll just leave it at that.

22. Tor 1 - This was actually why I picked the pack of three free comics, its mates being the Twilight Avenger issues, but there's one problem. It's in 3-D. It has glasses, but I'm loathe to rip them out of the book and am not going hunting for any glasses my kids might have around somewhere. As a result, this has gone unread. Possibly the first and last comic to be on the List without being read. I like the Joe Kubert cover, though. Man, I do hate gimmicks.

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