Sunday, March 12, 2006

Comic Shop Box - What I Got In February

Readers and Readettes,

I'm back, for now, and since I haven't done any Pull Lists for this month, I thought I'd take a bit and do the entire month of February in one shot! Next post will be in a few weeks, that Wonder Woman look back I've been talking about, I've been re-reading all the back issues so I hope it'll be worth the wait.

Anyway, here goes nothing:

MISC Publishers:

The Middleman: Vol. 1 -

I kind of stumbled upon this one... I saw the trade paperback at Comicazi, and the art caught my eye, but with a strained budget I couldn't spend 10 bucks on an unknown collection of four issues... oh, what a fool I was. Later, with my lady, we were digging through the quarter bin at Newbury Comics when I found the first two issues: it's solid gold.

At first glance, this story about a cool-as-ice agent of a secret society that cleans up supernatural occurrences seems to just be a Men In Black rip-off, but it after reading the sense of humor and adventure in this book feels more like if Johnny Quest met Bugs Bunny. One of the keener things is that where in Men In Black they had to use a Neuralizer to wipe the memories of witnesses, in The Middleman they just chock it up to people rationalizing things to stay sane.

Any other reservations about originality were cast aside when I picked up the first issue of Volume 2, which features Sensei Ping, an untrappable martial artists who wears a Mexican luchadore mask. It's fabulous.

I also discovered, after the fact, that the art I like so much is done by Les McClaine, an ex-Comicazi regular! Here's a link to his site, Johnny Crossbones!

Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty #4 -

Ennnnh. I'm usually enthused, but my patience for this book is wearing thin. Fresh up until the last few issues, Ashley Wood is running out of tricks that we haven't already seen in Metal Gear Solid 1, and the plot is overly complex and murky... On the other hand, so was the plot of the game. I'll tough it out, because I wish I were Solid Snake, but anyone who's not a crazy fan should wait until IDW puts out Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater which does this crazy stuff with a 1960’s cold-war twist.

Put the Book Back On The Shelf: The Belle & Sebastian Anthology –

An Open Letter To Newbury Comics: Peabody, MA Location –

Dear Newbury Comics,
You are fairly awesome - you put out a yearly zine letting me know what music you liked from the past 365, and always have friendly people working with you. You even let me paw through the loose Star Wars minis when someone opened the box already. So it is with a heavy hand and heart that I write this. While I appreciate that you discounted Put The Book Back On The Shelf by five dollars, WHY DID YOU PUT A BIG PINK STICKER ON THE COVER? Now, the damage was not irreparable... after some long, hard work with a razor and some Goo-Gone, it came off. But I was tested, and tried... we can stay together, but it may take some time to re-build trust.
I love you, Newbury Comics, and can't wait to see you again this weekend.

Now that that's done, if you like Belle & Sebastian, there's no reason not to get this book. It covers a good deal of their rather prolific career, up to Dear Catastrophe Waitress. The different creators they got managed to pick and choose perfectly when to adapt the lyrics of the songs, when to tell a story with the tone of the songs, and when to just let the lyrics tell the story over their pictures. Piaza, New York Catcher is the best of the book, and I get more than a little choked up when I read it.

When Zombies Attack! #1 -

A new piece from Jim Mahfood about cops who handle zombies and vampires in a town where that's the norm. As Middle Man is to adventure, this book is to horror. There's a bit less of winking and nudging in this one, though. It's got a gritty truck-stop flavor, and reading it the town feels less like a suburb and more like the rural south with slightly more flesh eating. A solid read, and Mahfood proves again that his art is good for pretty much any genre.

Marvel Comics:

Powers #16 -

I want you to think about the concept of a Green Lantern Corps.
A group of aliens pick locals from each sector of space, and grant them powers to protect said space. Now picture that concept on as much acid as you can get your hands on, or the equivalent amount of Grant Morrison's Blood, and you'll have a good idea of what this issue of Powers is like. Throw in a really odd movie reference, and viola, instant Bendis Love.

New Avengers #16 -

Just as much Bendis! Not as much love!
Wait, why does that get an "!"?
The readers get another look inside the now inept S.H.E.I.L.D., something every recent Marvel writer has decided to do... it's getting to the point that I wonder how this new director got the job after Nick Fury? Did she loose a bet? Someone needs to show her getting the job even remotely done, just to add some believability to her as a nemesis. Also Alpha Flight dies. If you look at that sentence proportionately to the rest of this summary, that's about how much space their deaths took up in the actual comic. With very few actual Avengers in this comic, I have to question the pacing of a story, even if it's just started.

Daredevil #82 -

Way less Bendis! Way more love!
This book was brutal. Ed Brubaker decided that when everyone says "Boy, it's been a rough year for Matt Murdock!” he should reply "YOU ARE ALL PANSIES!" and cause further havoc in everyone's favorite blind lawyer. Michael Lark's pencils are welcome as always, and I miss them both on Gotham Central like a vegan misses cheese. The ending is a shocker, unless you read Previews (See: my earlier post)

Ultimate Spider-Man #90 -

Equal Bendis and Love!
The perfect balance is struck in Ultimate Spider-Man.
Um, this book is great? It comes out twice a month, and is always great? I don't know what to say about Ultimate Spidey except that it's the only title I buy those sweet deluxe hard-covers for.

X-Factor #3 -

Mutant Noir!
Multiple Man runs a detective agency and employs Siren, Wolfsbane, M, a de-powered Richtor and Strong Guy (who I still don't 'get'). The art is care of Ryan Sook, so it's as dark and silky smooth as the finest dark chocolate, with Peter David's writing providing an ironic sense of humor for a smidge of bitterness. I hereby proclaim this simile complete!

I typically don't buy X-Books, but this one jumped to the top of my read pile after issue #1 off the shelf.

I Heart Marvel: Web of Romance -

Speaking of "Off Radar," Marvel did a whole month of romance comics in celebration of Valentine's Day, most of which were tremendously boring or just plain dumb. All is forgiven, however, because Marvel put out a comic that is the essence of Spider-Man:

Super-powered fights and not knowing quite how to handle girls.

In this ish, Spidey is at a loss for what to get his wife Mary Jane this Valentine's Day, and consults everyone from Captain America to the Mandrill. Pete comes through in the end, as always, and even gets to have some fun at the expense of Johnny Storm. This was a great read.

She Hulk #5 -

While this wasn't the best issue of this book, I'll still take She-Hulk a hundred times before I pick up almost any other book.

X-Statix Presents: Dead Girl #2 -

X-Force/X-Statix was WAY ahead of its time. About a privately owned Mutant Super-Team, the book drawn by Mike Allred and written by Peter Milligan featured bizarre characters like the super-sensitive Orphan, electric-sweat-wielding Anarchist, green blob with a video-camera Doop, and of course Dead Girl.

When a group of heroes and villains come back from Hell to make trouble for Dr. Strange, the sorcerer supreme goes to Heaven to put together a team. Also, he complains about his hemorrhoids and re-incarnates Dead Girl out of prime cuts of meat. It's insane, completely, but fun.

Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #3 -

Oh me, oh my, do I loves me this book. In fact, the name of this blog should be changed to Casey Loves Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane.

Like Web of Romance, it takes the melodramatic romance of early Spidey comics blends that with the fun of Peter Parker's secret identity and then shifts the focus to the utterly charming Mary Jane Watson. This issue is about Mary Jane joining a production of Othello at the school, and all the social pitfalls that come with changing cliques. The whole thing has the same fun nostalgic charm as an episode of Degrassi Jr. High, but with Spider-Man walking around in his civvies.

Don't judge me.

DC Comics:

Rann/Thanagar War Infinite Crisis Special -

This was the only comic I got this month that really tied into Infinite Crisis in any direct way, and it was a yawn - possibly a yawn and a half?
Some anti-climactic deaths, confusing pencils and something… odd happening to Kyle Rayner, my favorite Green Lantern adds up to disappointment.

Seven Soldiers: The Bulleteer #3 -

Bulletteer is the weakest of the Seven Soldiers series yet it's still strangely appealing.
Bulletteer is Morrison's take on the Nineties Super-Hero - the scantily armored busty lass - is reflexive enough to keep my interest. The ludicrousness of the whole situation is on every page, and none more than the last one of this issue.

Y: The Last Man #42 –



I really liked this issue! The flashbacks give us a good look at how messed up 355 really is, and why. I'll be sad when it's over.

JLA #125 -

Thank GOD this is over.
What can I say? When a key part of your big cross-over is to break-up the JLA, maybe you should end their book, instead of dragging it out in some half-assed Key story-line? The art was abysmal, and it tied in more with the story from Justice League: Elite than anything else, something I had to learn by going "Hey, Aaron, who are these people?" even though I've been reading this book since day one.

I have great faith in Brad Meltzer's upcoming run that takes place One Year Later, and let's hope that Booster Gold and the new Blue Beetle make the roster!

Jonah Hex #4 -

Jonah Hex shoots a LOT of people, and damn, if it isn’t fine reading.

Teen Titans #32 -

Teen Titans is suffering badly from artist Mike McKone's departure. I know a lot of fans are having trouble believing the recent romantic developments but overall the story is just kind of bland. Everything about this book, from its’ characters to it's creators, are stretched too thin across the DCU right now.

Maybe that's a problem inherent in having a book starring teen sidekicks, but I thought the point of Teen Titans was for them to develop outside of their roles as diminutive Supermen, Batmen, and Wonder Women – so it would have been nice to see their development happen here instead of in Crisis or Detective Comics or whatever titles things are going down in.

Gotham Central #40 -

Come back, Rene!

Gotham Central was one of those rare titles full of real people instead of supermen: people braver than any of those dressed in tights and Kevlar. Gritty and mature without being exploitive or pornographic, every issue of Gotham Central said something about standing ones ground in a city so corrupt it needs a man dressed like a bat just to contain the chaos. This book will be sorely, sorely missed.

This is the issue where we see what's to become of Crispus Allen's killers, and watch Rene Montoya spiral further downward. It's the finale to the book, and as the cover suggests, Rene's time with the GCPD. She's become a good friend over the years, and I'm hoping that something can shake her out of this during 52. I know that everyone who reads this book will be there for her.

Wonder Woman #226 -

This was the perfect ending to this series, something that was a big conflict with a scene in Infinite Crisis #5. But I leave you with something Greg Rucka signed on my copy of #195.

"She gives us hope."

While typing up this list, I noticed that I'm getting less comics than I used to... this is for two reasons:

The first is that Marvel is putting out less and less comics that interest me. While Daredevil and She-Hulk remain great, and there are surprises like Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane or X-Factor, the majority of their books... aren't that good. Not "great", good.

Spider-Man is without a doubt my favorite comic book character, and his flagship book is just crummy, with gimmicks, crossovers, costume-changes, and silly characterization bogging it down.
Instead of seeking fresh looks at new characters, Marvel seems to be repeating their pattern of giving two or three really great creators an back-breaking load of work: while they've laid the pressure off Bendis in recent months (cutting his work-load down from nine books to three), I'm a little scared for Ed Brubaker's work, which might suffer under the weight of Captain America, Books of Doom, Daredevil, AND his upcoming Uncanny X-Men run.

The second reason is that DC is culling their titles in the wake of Infinite Crisis. Out of the titles I listed, all but two were limited series, and three of them ended this month. That being said, I've been furiously adding new books to my pull-list, books like Blue Beetle, Paul Dini's Detective Comics, and Checkmate. I have high expectations for these books, as I'm losing a lot of the comics I used to rush to the store to get before.

Here's hoping DC reaches the finish line as neatly and excellently as they've run the race.

So that's February for me! In writing this, I've become two weeks late on March, so hopefully I'll get something for that up soon.

Thanks for reading!


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